Jason Statham represents both the good and the bad of the B-Movie world. From the admittedly ridiculous but undeniably fun Transporter series to the barrel scraping effort that was Crank 2, the quality of the Jason Statham vehicle is woefully inconsistent, even as he refuses to stretch himself from film to film. His snarling, prowling intensity has charm and no little humour, which works well when the material constructed around him is good enough. His most recent offering, a solid remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson revenge flick The Mechanic, is a case in point, and demonstrates why he has become a success in Hollywood.
It’s unfortunate then, that Blitz is a dud, and not just because Statham’s growling energy deserves better. The film sees Statham’s Brant, the sort of no-nonsense, maverick cop seen in any number of American police films, on the hunt for a gleeful cop killer known as Blitz (Aidan Gillen) in South London. Teaming up with straight-laced Sergeant Nash (Paddy Considine), the crime solving odd-couple must battle with both a psychopath and the frustrations of procedural red tape before settling for taking out the trash the old-fashioned way.
Films that operate in this territory can get away with being pretty nonsensical, provided they offer momentum, some solid pulpy dialogue and a few efficient action sequences. Shallow, pulsating fun is their calling card, and little is required in the way of originality. But Blitz lumbers from dull subplot to clunky exposition with every scene, and while the two central chase sequences (in which Brant manages to track don Gillen’s killer) make good use of some iconic London locations, moments that should be climactic are generally humdrum. The reliance on cliché and clunky dialogue reaches guffaw-inducing levels, especially in scenes involving Gillen and Considine, and plot points such as Brant’s heavy drinking are seemingly thrown in because of their appearance in other, similar films rather than any sense of relevance.
Like The Mechanic – which boasted the able support of Donald Sutherland - Blitz has surrounded its star with an impressive support cast in an attempt to give a little extra weight to a wafer-thin plot. Gillen, Considine and David Morrissey, who appears as an unprincipled tabloid hack on the hunt for an exclusive, are some of the strongest acting talent the UK has to offer, but director Elliott Lester manages to utterly squander them. Settling for paper thin characters that lack anything in the way of personality, the fact that actors so riveting elsewhere seem to be phoning in their performances is indicative of how little fun there is on offer here. It is a symptom of Blitz’s wider problems.
Revealing the identity of his killer early on, Lester seemingly has no idea where to go with his cat and mouse setup, and what should be thrilling is instead visually stilted and dramatically uninspired, with little idea or interest in where it is headed. A process of filling in screen time with pointless characters and subplots until the inevitable, disappointing showdown, its numerous blunders include the misplaced, faintly strange comedy relief of a tittering Irish informant, and the unintentionally hilarious – not to mention patronising – touch of having Nash’s homosexuality signified by a taste for Japanese furniture.
Statham makes the most of what little he is given, snarling lines like “does it look like I carry a pencil?” with his customarily humorous efficiency. But there is little for an actor with a track record of arresting physicality and a snarling sense of fun to actually do here. America, where Statham does the majority of his work these days, seems to appreciate his particular talents. On this evidence, he might want to stick to Hollywood.