Starring: Jason Statham, Paddy Considine, Aiden Gillen, David Morrissey, Luke Evans, Zawe Ashton

Director: Elliot Lester

Writer(s): Nathan Parker, Ken Bruen (novel)

Cinematography: Rob Hardy

Original Score: Ilan Eshkeri

Running Time: 97 Mins.

The last film to be based on a Ken Bruen novel was the gritty gangster flick London Boulevard, it wasn’t all that well received and failed to make much impact at the box office. A great shame as it had a lot of great elements despite a slightly mixed tone that didn’t always gel all of the ideas together as I suspect the film-makers intended. So to Blitz, the second of Bruen’s novels to find itself spawning a film adaptation, Blitz also suffers a similar issue though as with London Boulevard it doesn’t hinder the overall enjoyment of the finished product. The setting is the same, inner-city London and like that film the landmark spots are thankfully avoided and in place is a grittier nd more grounded tour through many grey back alleys, grimy apartment blocks and the central hub of a police station. These are not unusual spots to see Jason “The Stath” Statham frequenting whilst beating the hell out of all and sundry who cross him, an example of this opens the film and sets the tone for a London based Crank/Transporter/Mechanic clone…thankfully this is a misleading first 5 minutes.

Having established Statham’s DS Brant as an alcoholic hard-ass who doesn’t take any messing (quite frankly he was never going to be anything else was he), we see he has been in the papers and bringing down the name of his station by being a little too rough and ready (again, no surprise there), but what would you know, he’s a good guy after all and he gets the job done. Oddly following the initial bout of Brant kicking ass there is little in the way of action and the story kicks into gear, a cop killer is on the lose and who better to catch him than DS Brant. This being a cop film Brant needs a mismatched partner, this time in the shape of Paddy Considine’s Porter Nash, the rub being that Nash is gay and frequently ribbed because of it. Inevitably there are some cheap shot jokes from Brant but they form a mutual understanding (shocker there) and set about finding the “Blitz”, occasionally breaking the rules to get the job done.

If this all sounds a little trite, it is, but the whole thing is handled with it’s tongue firmly inserted in cheek, the dark vein of humour is much like that in London Boulevard but as mentioned before so to does the tone jar a touch. Alongside the solid (but run of the mill) police investigation story is the personal plight of Statham with only one or two misplaced punch-ups thrown in (presumably to appease fans of The Stath). The truth is the guy can act, if only in one style, and in the correct role it works wonders, as it does here, whether he is consoling a grieving colleague or pursuading a snitch to talk, he convinces. Similarly Considine is as great as ever, showing yet another bow to his very wide range, Nash is subtle and quiet saying on what needs saying and downplaying his sexuality where it easily could have been ramped to OTT and unconvincing levels in the wrong hands.

The clincher for me though was the handling of the plot, someone killing cops is hardly a new concept as it turns the investigating police in to avenging angels, but the perpetrator (Aiden Gillen) is a truly memorable villain, wronged by Brant in the past he is a true nutcase and convinces as one too, yes he IS OTT but dials it down enough when needed to be more than a mere cartoon character pyscho, and when the three central characters finally meet it makes for an explosively tense showdown. But yes, as I said it is far from perfect, the subplots (involving a druggie wannabe Sergeant and a dodgy reporter in the form of David Morrissey) are weak and lifeless adding little to the overall package and it won’t win any prizes for originality or subtlety but as a Friday night crime thriller you could do a lot worse.

VERDICT

Don’t let the poster mislead you, Blitz is a vehicle for “The Stath” but he spends more time investigating than bashing in heads. This though is a good thing and throw in Paddy Considine and Aiden Gillen and you have the recipe for a very enjoyable, though far from original, crime thriller with bite.

Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Christa Campbell

Director: Simon West

Writer(s): Richard Wenk, Lewis John Carlino,

Cinematography: Eric Schmidt

Original Score: Mark Isham

Running Time: 92 Mins.

So there’s this film, it’s a remake of a Charles Bronson starrer from the 70’s, its about a hitman who grows a conscience after he is set up and has ended up killing his mentor, and there is action aplenty. If ever there was a vehicle made to star Jason Statham, the latter-day Bruce Willis, it is The Mechanic, so low-and-behold here he is spattered all over buses and billboards sporting (who’d have guessed…) a gun and his usual shaven Barnet looking more than a little peeved.

Thankfully, after his down-right cringe-worthy turn in the equally cringe-worthy film known as The Expendables, Statham is back to taking centre stage and growling his lines in that American accent that only the Stath seems to adopt in a film that veers a little further from formula than we had any right to expect, well in terms of approaching the material if not in the cliché ridden plot itself though in the writers defence a couple of nice twists do get thrown up to pep up an all to linear plot, but then again did you expect any less…or indeed more.

To give Statham his due the one-liners have been lost and the premise is played more for tense drama than over-blown action with a slow-burn first third that allows us to get to know Arthur (Statham) as he shares a handful of great scenes with an old master and mentor Harry (Sutherland, classy) and his, eventual,  protegé and Harry’s grieving son Steve (Foster, crazy and considered). It is in the scenes with Foster that the film manages to rise above the generic and forges ahead with a story, if not more, equally concerned with character as it is with action.

The scene setting and slow burn training of Steve offers brief assassination scenes that are played for sheer brutality with short sharp bursts rather than the overblown and all too oft parodied action of the Transporter films, while the annoying frenetic non-stop mess that is Crank 2: High Voltage is a log forgotten mis-step. The crescendo slides towards expectation a little too much but resists the urge to ramp the action up too much in the name of basing the story in a more real and gritty world, and all this from the man that gave us Lara Croft: Tomb Raider!

There are flaws, but too few to be overly critical given such a pedestrian story which becomes more than it should have in the first place, Tony Goldwyn (director of Conviction and The Last Kiss) is pure cut out villain yet he isn’t nearly menacing enough to have any impact though this is really about the eventual blow between Arthur and Steve, again hardly unpredictable but after their relationship has been so meticulously worked at the outcome is all the more shocking, on the downside it does mean the probably eventual Mechanic 2 is unlikely to be nearly as interesting…or fun, lacking that crazy that one character brings!

VERDICT

The Mechanic sits above the Crank and The Transporter sequels in the Stath’s movie pecking order thanks to a sombre tone and a focus of characters (that are thankfully fun and more than simply 2D) and some intense parred down action scenes played for tension rather than over-blown gasps.

 

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Syeve Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Writer(s): Dave Callahan, Sylvester Stallone

Cinematography: Jeffrey L. Kimball

Original Score: Brian Tyler

Running Time: 103 Mins.

It sounded like an action-film fan’s wet dream, Sylvester Stallone (currently enjoying a career revival of sorts thanks to Rocky and Ra,bo sequels that were actually quite good) decided to assemble a who’s who of action stars for what he pegged as the ultimate action film, so we have the old 80’s heavyweights (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Lundgren, Rourke) alongside more recent action stars (Statham and Li) and a handful of newbies such as UFC’s Couture and the WWE’S Austin, heck if he’d manage to round-up Van-Damme and Seagal The Expendables really would have the whole set of action man top trumps. Alas minus those two this is no shabby line-up, in fact if you were a director of explosions and fisticuffs you could ask for little more, and deliver a lot.

Sadly Stallone squanders most of what he has for a film that doesn’t so much seem unsure as to what it wants to be, rather he just lazily gives us what most of these guys have done of late and give us a below-par action-adventure that would be better placed on the bottom shelf of your local blockbuster. Okay so this may seem a little unfair and yes it probably is better made than Lundgren and Austin’s last DTV efforts but Stallone while hardly a great director is capable of more, and you would have thought between them the cast could have found a little more chemistry than the feeble attempts that are mustered between Stallone/Statham, Stallone/Li, Stallone/Lundgren, Stallone/Rourke, notice a pattern, if this seems monotonous wait until you see the film.

Opening with a sequence aboard a boat there is no sense of time, place or what the hell is going on, badly lit it is only when after 10 minutes of shaky-cam we can make anything out that the realisation of what is happening kicks in, to a degree, for while Barney Ross’s (Stallone’s) crew is a group of mercenaries none of them seem to work as a unit or have any kind of camaraderie with one another, and worst of all they are not seen together again until the film 30 minutes bar a brief exposition at the  midpoint. This leaves one of the years flimsiest of plots with plenty of time to spend getting to know characters individually, not necessarily a problem if your characters have chemistry or (fundamentally for an action film) something exciting to do, The Expendables has neither.

Stallone can act, this we know, but he looks bored here and bar a few quips with Statham his relationship’s with these men he supposedly relies upon as friends as well as colleagues is non-existent, and each scene serves to provide time with he and another member almost as if this were a set-up for a bigger adventure, which never comes. Statham is given a pointless and hugely clichéd (the order of the day here) subplot involving a girl, one of two token women with no characterisation again this would not prove to be a problem were there chemistry of characterisation elsewhere. One need only witness each and every scene with Jet Li featuring a line about his height to see how lacking and tired the script is, something which only seems to reach for something more in Rourke’s pivotal “acting” scene, it is to his credit that of all the cast he emerges as the most likeable alongside, more surprisingly perhaps, Lundgren as a renegade Expendable.

To its merit there is little drag during the relatively brief running time despite all the negatives which serves to prove that watching explosions and punch-ups really are like chewing gum for the eyes, but once the finale comes you might well crave some classic action especially after the film’s high-point, a geek pleasing exchange between Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis, three heavyweights who are capable of so much more than this bottom shelf fare.

VERDICT

The Expendables takes a hell of a lot of prime testosterone and squanders it into a messily directed selection of fights and explosions that are strung together with fruitless attempts at characterisation, something of a shame given the promise and hardly the searing action spectacle we hoped for.

I’m not sure this role is going to provide much of a stretch, but Jason Statham has just signed on to play a hitman in The Mechanic, a remake of the Charles Bronson film of 1972. Simon West (Con Air, When A Stranger Calls) is directing.

The story focuses on a highly-skilled but emotionally detached hitman – guess who – who is planning to retire when a young man asks to be trained up in the profession. Only problem is that this new apprentice is the son of one of the Mechanic’s victims, and may have more in mind than just a City and Guilds apprenticeship.

The film starts shooting this summer in Shreveport, Louisiana, based on a script by Steve Salerno.

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Starring:Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, Clifton Collins Jr., Ling Bai

Director:Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

Writers:Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Cinematography:Brandon Trost

Original Score: Mike Patton

Running Time:96 Mins.

Have you seen Crank? If the answer is yes then you will know pretty much what to expect from its sequel Crank: High Voltage, and if you haven’t, well let me just say it is as mad as a bag of spanners! Wall to wall action, shot in a frenetic style that very rarely pauses for breath all taking place around The Stath at his ‘Stathiest’. That is to say dead panning his way through multiple henchmen, and generally kicking ass. If you like neither Statham or films that really are slightly off the hook…stop reading now because quite frankly reviewing Crank: High Voltage is like preaching to the converted.

Still reading, good, well this is one sequel where it picks up seconds from said original with The Stath’s dead/unconscious/comatose body literally being scooped from the floor having fallen from a helicopter, well, no-one said this was realistic, and it all goes more bat-shit crazy from there, plot here is really limited to Stath’s Chev Chelios having his super-human style heart replaced with an electric model that requires regular jolts in order to keep it pumping, and Chev pumped. When I say pumped I mean crashing, literally crashing, his way around the city in the search of his own ‘Strawberry tart’as he puts it. Make no mistake this is one violent crusade, much like its forebear, people are shot (alot!), nipples are chopped off, machetes are wielded and most memorably of all shotguns dipped in oil are inserted into very undesirable places.

But extreme violence is common-place in the cinemas you shout, well yes but not in the jittery way Neveldine and Taylor do it, imagine the Bourne style of shooting on steroids, this doesn’t mean that the action is over edited simply it has a great energy that never gives u a chance to think, which in hindsight really is a good thing, for thinking about Crank: High Voltage does it very little favours. This is purely a turn your brain of and prepare for it to be mashed, and if thats your thing well your going to love it.

Occasionally the stupidity dips a little too low and you have to draw the line when Chev and his opponent grow to Godzilla sized people complete with giant caricature heads or the use of a past villains head still being kept alive in a tank, but these are forgettable flaws amongst the ongoing craziness. Holding it all together once again is The Stath, while he’s never going to be the worlds best actor his persona harks back to the action hero’s of the long lost 80’s (which might explain Sly Stalline recruiting him for The Expendables) actioners. His cockney slang is great and it is he that ensures the tone is kept firmly tongue in cheek, with this in mind the support cast struggle to find their place amongst all the craziness, never really sure which side of ott they should be on, all except Amy Samrt who manages to look drop dead gorgeous regardless of what she wears though the repeat of the originals public sex scene is a step too far and feels totally pointless, but then again the whole film in retrospect is, pointless.

VERDICT

Do you like The Stath, do you like your films completely off the wall and ready to mash your brain to a pulp with non-stop action that ott seems too mild a term to describe, well Crank: High Voltage is for you.

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crank_two_ver2A few naysayers in the forums have suggested that we shouldn’t call Jason Statham “The Stath”, and that our enthusiasm for the bonkers Crank: High Voltage might be misplaced. But seriously, folks, take a look at this new poster and think again: it’s clearly going to be awesomely over the top.

This sequel of course sees the Stath’s Chev Chelios wake up following his apparent death at the end of the first film to find his indestructible heart being removed by organ harvesters. They replace it with an electric model to keep him going while they cut out the rest of his superior innards. Unfortunately for them, Chelios has other ideas and goes hunting his heart – while giving himself regular electric shocks to keep his dicky replacement ticker running. Hence this poster. Ouch.

The film’s out on April 17, which by our count is not nearly soon enough. Yes, we’re looking forward to this nonsense. And if you’re not, it could well be that you’re dead inside.

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It should be pretty obvious at this point that I’m pretty excited about Crank 2: High Voltage. Sure, I know the franchise is ridiculous and over the top and more than a little insane, but it’s also like every action film ever boiled down to its essentials and then distilled into a strong liquor of pure mayhem. So I’m terribly pleased to see this new Crank 2 trailer online.

The film sees Jason Statham’s Chev Chelios lose the indestructible heart that sustained him through the first film to organ harvesters, who replace that organ with an electrical model to keep him alive while they harvest the rest. He naturally escapes and, with the aid of regular electric shocks, keeps himself alive while searching for the missing heart. Awesome.

There’s also a new poster for the film also online now – check it out above. Crank 2 is released on April 17, which can’t come soon enough – to hell with character devlopment and subtext, just this once.