Thanks to the Bourne films, Matt Damon is one of the world’s biggest action heroes. That’s right: the man who spent two hours telling audiences he bought a zoo is a trusted name in ass-kicking.
This is unacceptable. Yes, Sylvester Stallone brought together aging action stars forThe Expendablesbut it was under a thick cloud of nostalgia and cosmetic surgery. Jean-Claude Van Damme had to go all Charlie Kaufman with his ownJCVD, playing himself, emoting straight to camera. And the Rock is a solid action contender, but his signature raised eyebrow means irony is inevitable.
So thank god for Jason Statham. The perpetually stubbled Brit discovered by Guy Ritchie forLock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrelsmight be singlehandedly keeping old-school action alive. After the indignity of being eaten in John Carpenter’s bombGhosts of Mars, Statham starred in The Transporter – and kicked his way into our hearts forever.
The Guardianonce wrote that “no matter what language you speak, you can decipher Statham.” While handy with a one-liner, it’s Statham’s physical presence that’s made him famous. He’s the kind of guy who admits he trains by flipping over a 400 pound tire in an alley. On screen, Statham is a shark. He must always move forward or die. Coincidentally, that’s the plot of his signature franchiseCrank: an insane riff on ‘what if the bus inSpeedwas actually a person?’ that sees him chasing adrenaline and electricity to survive.
Some movies – likeThe Bank JobThe Killer Elite– attempt to place Statham in something more like the everyday world. It’s never entirely convincing. He’s too much man for realism. His latest film,;Safe, softens him with a surrogate daughter in need of protection, but it remembers to balance its melodrama with ridiculous fight scenes.
Real action doesn’t need irony or nostalgia. It just needs fists and feet, automatic gunfire and exploding gas tanks. All it needs is adrenaline and, as Statham says, “You cannot fake adrenaline.”
Safe; screens from Thu 10 May
Five lessons of Statham:
Learn to improvise. If you’re fighting while covered in grease, snap off bicycle pedals and wear them on your feet for traction a la The Transporter.
Grooming is important. In Transporter 2, Statham pauses to remove a freshly drycleaned jacket before violence ensues.
Say ‘I love you’. Statham leaves a message for his sweetheart while plummeting to his death in the final moments of Crank.
Be polite. In The Mechanic, Statham’s hit man leaves a pre-explosion note: “If you’re reading this, then you’re dead.”
Go big or go home. When all else fails, embrace the surreal logic ofCrank: High Voltag eand grow to Godzilla-size to crush your enemies!