AD­VEN­TURES IN STREAM­ING

EACH IS­SUE, OUR IN­TREPID WRITER FOL­LOWS NET­FLIX’S COM­PUTER-CAL­I­BRATED REC­OM­MEN­DA­TIONS, GO­ING WHER­EVER THE TRAIL LEADS

Empire (UK) - - REVIEW - WORDS SI­MON CROOK

Jason Statham

MAYBE IT’S DOWN TO the RADA Mafia, but the UK rarely pro­duces in­ter­na­tional ac­tion stars. Which makes Jason Statham such a glo­ri­ously un­likely phe­nom­e­non — as Bri­tish as an Olympic Break­fast, hard as a con­crete nail and a DIY stunt don, his rise to the A-list isn’t cel­e­brated nearly enough. There are no fewer than 13 of his movies on Net­flix, from Wild Card to The Ex­pend­ables. God only knows what we’ll get. Let the Stath-roulette be­gin... Set in swel­ter­ing Louisiana, brutish, scowl­ing thriller

The Me­chanic is ar­che­typal Statham — a Brit-abroad hit­man with porn-star sun­glasses, bul­let­proof stub­ble and an über-stath name, Arthur Bishop. An­ti­heroes are a Statham spe­cial­ity, but ni­hilis­tic ma­niac Bishop is ex­treme even by his stan­dards. First, he as­sas­si­nates his own men­tor. Then he un­wisely adopts his men­tor’s son (Ben Foster) and shapes him into a hit­man. Open­ing with a sui­ci­dal hurl off a 100-foot bridge, the stunts are gob­s­mack­ing in a merely solid thriller that, nonethe­less, has its mo­ments. The se­quence where they take down a ke­tamine-junkie tel­e­van­ge­list in a sky­scraper fortress is breath­lessly staged by Si­mon West, al­though why they’re cam­ou­flaged in S.w.a.t.-team black dur­ing the day­time qual­i­fies as a to­tal stealth fail. Se­quel Me­chanic: Res­ur­rec­tion vrooms into cine­mas later this year...

Cin­e­matic cat­tle-prod Crank: High Volt­age sees the re­turn of Statham’s un­kil­l­able cock­ney hit­man, Chev Che­lios. This time, his heart’s been nicked by LA tri­ads. Cue a fran­tic or­gan-chase, as Che­lios tasers his elec­tric ticker to stay alive. Sur­real high­light: mu­tat­ing into a roar­ing Stathzilla for a power-sta­tion scrap. Mark Nevel­dine/brian Tay­lor’s re­lent­less ADHD style fraz­zles like a grotesque ac­tion-car­toon, as does Statham — the scowl loosens into a mad-eyed gurn. Check out the dog-col­lar scene — his per­for­mance is lit­er­ally bark­ing.

Ar­guably his sig­na­ture role, Trans­porter 3 is Statham’s last stab at kung-fu courier Frank Martin. Much like Crank, there’s a time-bomb gim­mick in the form of an ex­plod­ing bracelet: stray too far from his Audi A8 and Frank goes boom, as does his “pack­age”, Natalya Ru­dakova. I’ve got a lot of time for the Trans­porter series — the clos­est the West has ever got to cloning Jackie Chan — but 50 min­utes into part three, there’s plenty of ac­tion but still no sign of a story. Prob­a­bly for the best, given that the even­tu­ally re­vealed plot hinges on the EU’S policy on in­dus­trial pol­lu­tants. If you think Michael Bay “fucks the frame”, Olivier Me­ga­ton’s cuts sug­gest a Vi­a­gra over­dose in the edit room — great for ra­bid pac­ing, less so for The Stath’s in­tri­cate fight chore­og­ra­phy, here re­duced to a blur of wind­milling limbs. Ghosts Of Mars is a sloppy John Car­pen­ter movie, but from a Statham per­spec­tive it’s fas­ci­nat­ing. This was his first Hol­ly­wood ap­pear­ance, made when he still had fluffy-duck­ling hair. It’s 2176AD, and an­cient de­monic dust has pos­sessed a Mar­tian min­ing colony. En­ter Statham as space-cop­per Jeri­cho But­ler, armed with a gun the size of a leg. “What the fack is go­ing on?” he yells as the in­vaders lay siege. Well, it’s a good fack­ing ques­tion. Tum­bling into a vor­tex of clumsy flash­backs, Car­pen­ter loses his grip on the plot, but, fa­tally, the ac­tion too: the Mad Maxy Mar­tians lope around as if some­one’s set the fire alarm off at a Mon­sters Of Rock fes­ti­val. Still, Statham’s eas­ily the best thing in it. And would have been even bet­ter if he’d been al­lowed to play Snake Plissken-alike Des­o­la­tion Williams, as orig­i­nally planned — the role went to wad­dling badass Ice Cube. I’m keep­ing my eyes crossed for an ex­plo­sive fi­nale, but no, Net­flix is in a proper mood. We end with a clunk: Uwe Boll’s un­holy Dun­geon Siege spin-off, In The Name Of The King . Boll’s adap­ta­tion of the RPG is truly Tolkien the piss — a kind of ‘Lord Of The Wrongs’, com­plete with Orc-a-like army that look like an­gry cow­pats. In­tro­duced digging up a swede, Statham plays a farmer called, er, Farmer. Be­ing a farmer, he is, of course, lethally pro­fi­cient with a boomerang. Yes. De­spite it re­sem­bling a cheesy quest that fell out of a video-van circa 1983, Boll doesn’t even have the de­cency to camp it up: in­stead, we’re served epi­cally bor­ing fan­tasy por­ridge with lumps of re­gional panto (hello, Ray Liotta’s Lib­er­ace wiz­ard). Hap­pily, The Stath re­mains un­bro­ken: even in dross, he gives his stub­bly all. Maybe he can de­ploy the sword­fight­ing skills on an­other movie. Or on Uwe Boll.

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