Is Jason Statham the greatest actor of the 21st century? Silly question: of course he is, let’s move on. And while Hobbs and Shaw will no doubt solidify his rep as the most brilliant thespian of our era, what better time than now to look back and reflect on the career of the performer who embodies literally everything that’s good about motion pictures today.
Actually, the first thing we need to do is reflect on the fact that he still has a career, because it wasn’t all that long ago that Statham seemed to be pretty much out the door when it came to making movies; the former professional diver came up after his debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels making action thrillers at a time when action thrillers were on their way out, and while his films got better – seriously, Safe is a great film – the market for those films got smaller.
Even making literally the greatest movie ever made – Crank: High Voltage, in which he played a violent manic only kept alive by regular jolts of electricity, sex, and murder – wasn’t enough to push him over the top, and by the start of this decade even playing second fiddle to Stallone in the Expendables films wasn’t keeping him from beginning to slide into the world of direct-to-DVD action. He was still making decent films – Homefront, or the first Mechanic – but what he was selling was no longer what Hollywood was buying, and when his last big stab at breaking out fizzled (that’d be Parker, which really should have been better), he went public and said he was pretty much done with churning out trash.
So, of course, that was the moment when it all started to turn around, thanks to a fairly unexpected series of circumstances. Firstly, he was really funny in Spy playing a pisstake version of himself, at times veering close to stealing the film out from under star Melissa McCarthy. Secondly, pretty much the last trash movie Statham had lined up before walking away was The Meg, which – after being delayed for over a year – was a huge hit when it finally came out (guess people like Statham fighting giant sharks – who knew?). And thirdly, he was cast as a bad guy in the Fast & Furious franchise – though after an awesome set-up in FF6, his actual role in FF7 was a bit of a letdown, as he just played a guy who kept popping up to harass our heroes rather than being anywhere near central to the story.
But as you’d expect from a man critics on this very page have called “the most brilliant thespian of our era”, once he was given the chance to shine, shine he did; despite being third or fourth fiddle in The Fate of the Furious he was pretty much the only actor who came out of that firmly average film looking good (guess people like Statham saving babies – who knew?), thus setting up Hobbs & Shaw… which, to be honest, could go either way, as there’s a fine line between awesome over the top and the kind of “awesome” that just leaves you shaking your head.
But whatever happens, one thing is certain: it’s a Fast and Furious movie, so they’re still going to talk a lot about family.
Written by Anthony Morris