Monday, July 1, 2013

Hummingbird aka Redemption

It boggles my mind how unfamiliar a critic or interviewer can be with an actor's body of work and it drives me nuts that Hollywood has such a short attention span. I say this because all the reviews of this film have talked about their surprise that, in Redemption, Statham attempts to act.

Internet haters, the uninitiated and people who can only just remember 2011 often think of, the ever increasingly prolific, Jason Statham as 'just an action guy' the same way they think of Stallone as 'just an action guy' (despite his long history of not only writing scripts but directing and the fact that Rocky, Copland, Night Hawks and others are more dramas than they are traditional action films, shit Dustin Hoffman was considered for the part of John Rambo so, Stallone's no slouch!) and the other accusation that is often thrown about is "Statham just plays Statham"

If, however, you have seen Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Transporter, Crank, The Bank Job and Safe you know that Statham diversifies, plays different characters, is a damn engaging screen presence, takes training very seriously and has more variety on his CV than almost anyone ever gives him credit for.

Not only that but Statham, as he has gained in popularity and more importantly power, he has strived to work on interesting scripts, more challenging roles, with a variety of great actors and some, genuinely, different directors & writers.
Does he predominantly make kick ass action films, yes? some of the best in recent years actually, but within that genre he is an actor, aware of his limitations (and the ones imposed on him by a narrow-minded, scared Hollywood), that has tried to do as much different stuff as possible.

So along comes Redemption, or Hummingbird as it was called in the UK, after the unmanned drones that patrol the war in the middle east (one of the themes in the movie is 'the ever watchful eye of surveillance') and while the trailer may look as if it's just the next Statham punching, kicking and taking-names vehicle and while the critics keep talking about it being the type of film we've not seen Statham in before, this is actually a film that sits nicely in his timeline with the early Richie films and next to later, more dramatic fare like the good 'The Bank Job' and the patchy, despite the presence of Paddy Constantine 'Blitz' which I think makes Statham something of a contender for Bob Hoskins hard man with a heart of gold crown.

Redemption is about an AWOL Royal Marine living rough on the streets of London who, one night while on the run, after taking a fairly horrific beating from two local gangsters and losing his girl/friend manages to take sanctuary in a, luckily open, loft apartment. After slowly sobering up and healing he decides, with the help of the owner of the apartment's debit card and a confused, shy but pretty nun to spend the summer putting his life back together. Sadly that comes with too many catches for him to bare and while he attempts to balance the right with the wrong he knows the direction he's truly headed will lead him back to the streets and drowning his post traumatic stress in the bottom of a vodka bottle.

Written and first-time directed by Steven Knight (the man behind Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises) Redemption is definitely a drama. There are moments of action, mostly the stuff you've seen in the trailer and there is an underlying revenge plot, like a Death Wish or a Get Carter but mostly it's a drama about a man attempting to face his demons while being torn between two worlds and the nun who attempts to help him but, herself, becomes torn between what could be and what is. Both of them are flawed individuals, both of them don't have the answers and both of them are prone to giving into temptation.

In the performances, the themes and the direction there are nice echoes of great early 80s Hoskins stuff like Mona Lisa. The leads all do good work with a pretty decent script, Statham gives a subdued, wounded and different performance than some might expect and his scenes with the delicate but occasionally feisty Agata Buzek are the films highlight. While it isn't Eastern Promises and while The Bank Job is probably a better and easier watch if you want to dip your toe into Statham's more serious stuff, I actually liked this film a lot. It even had me shedding the odd single man tear on occasions, I don't mind admitting.

For sceptics, cynics and haters looking to be blown away and have their opinions changed on The Stath I am not sure there is an assured enough hand in the director's chair or that the subject matter is 'palatable' enough for them to really concentrate and give him the benefit of the doubt. This is because while, yes, Statham is doing some really terrific work, Steven Knight drenches a light neon, Chinatown glow to London's streets, the beautiful cobbles of Covent Garden are given their time to shine and while there is tons going on, it's weirdly just not as engaging or as satisfying as it could be with a slightly different vision behind the camera.

All that being said, I liked it and, if nothing else, gives credit to an actor refusing to be pigeonholed and who, despite his Hollywood leading man status, keeps coming back to Blighty to give rich, varied, character based performances.

Keep it up JS!
-The Kick Ass Kid

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