Britain’s last action hero Jason ‘The Stath’ Statham flexes his acting muscles as much as his real ones in this low-key curiosity.
Whether you like Statham or not (and there are plenty who don’t), there’s no denying the former diver and black market trader has done the business on his own terms.
I for one have a huge amount of respect for Statham. While many of his action man peers rely on straight-to-DVD trash to make a living, Mr Chrome Dome has become a genuine movie star in his own right. A big reason for this is because he (mostly) tends to choose his films wisely and isn’t afraid to send his hard man persona up.
Film series like The Transporter and the two Expendables movies may be his bread and butter, but with his latest Hummingbird (released as Redemption in the States and, erroneously, Crazy Joe in France) he gets down to the serious business of acting… while still kicking ass and taking names.
Statham plays Joseph ‘Joey’ Smith, who’s deserted from the Royal Marines following a traumatic tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province and is living day-to-day on the streets in London. He escapes a couple of brutal gangsters and breaks into a swish apartment, whose owner is out-of-town for several months. While getting himself back on his feet he tries to help Sister Cristina (Agata Buzek), whose shelter saved him when he was at his lowest ebb, while also looking for revenge against the low life who murdered his girlfriend.
Played straight for the most part, writer-director Steven Knight revisits the same down and dirty side of the Big Smoke he explored in his script for David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. Knight clearly knows the city well and, with the help of cinematographer Chris Menges (who also shot the Colin Farrell gangland drama London Boulevard) captures it beautifully. Shot mostly at night, the camera lovingly follows Smith as he silently walks the streets.
When it comes, the violence is as nasty as you would expect in a Statham picture, although it doesn’t wallow in it. In fact the only nod to Stath’s better known fare comes when Smith, challenged by a goon holding a blade, utters the immortal line “you got a knife? I got a spoon”.
No-one would argue Hummingbird should win any prizes for originality, although the nods to Mike Hodges’ classic 1971 crime thriller Get Carter are pretty blatant, right down to the way he dispatches one particularly loathsome individual.
That being said, there are enough moments here to make the film stand on its own two feet. The parallel, for instance, in the opening moments between an aerial shot of Helmand featuring radio chatter and one of London is very nicely handled and sets up the rest of the movie well.
And what of Statham himself? In interviews for the film, he’s spoken of his pride in the film, while the work he went through for the role is evident on screen as he taps into previously unseen emotions (guilt, weakness, depression).
Whether Hummingbird turns out to be a one-off diversion on Statham’s action-packed career path we’ll wait and see, but I for one would welcome more roles like this from Mr Chrome Dome.