The action movie is dead, or so goes the current popular theory. They say (and we must believe them, for “they” is never wrong), that in a time of war audiences do not want to see things blow up, bad guys shot to pieces, or good prevailing over evil. And with old school action stars Arnold, Sly and Bruce albeit retired from the genre that made them famous, the silver screen is now devoid of a blue chip action star. Well take note, because “they” are very, very wrong.
There is one man out there who has earned the right to take the mantle of “The New Last Action Hero”. The one that can bring back the old glory days of mindless 80’s action fluff. That has the ability to take on fifteen bad guys at once, dispatch them all and deliver a cutting one-liner, all without breaking a sweat. Someone who actually enjoys being an action hero. And it doesn’t hurt that he shares my first name.
Jason Statham is the new, and the one and only, true action star. Think I’m wrong? Let’s go down the list of potential current action heroes and you’ll see that only Statham has what it takes to make it in action.
The Rock - He hasn’t made a movie that anybody at all even cares about. I’m looking right at you, Gridiron Gang.
Matt Damon – A goofy looking white guy that accidented himself onto this list with the Bourne movies. He’s only pretending to take the throne in between his real job as a “serious actor”.
Paul Walker – Has the abs but not the brains, charisma or acting abilities (and yes, that’s compared to Arnold, Sly and Bruce).
Vin Diesel - Well, let’s just say that Bruce Willis never wrestled a duck in any of his action movies. And if he had, he surely would have won the fight.
Matthew McConaughey – By the day, looks more and more like someone who would much rather hit on chicks, hang with one-balled former bicyclers, grow unruly facial hair and cinematically romance daffy blondes, than make a good action movie. Sahara wasn’t bad, but I bet it’s all we ever get from him. He’s a romcom slave now and forever.
Ryan Reynolds – Would be a good action star so long as he never opened his mouth. If that ever happens look for him to be a solid B-movie action guy.
Hugh Jackman – Odds are good the only time you’ll ever see Hugh in action is either in a pair of tight leather pants on a Broadway stage, or in tight leather jumpsuits in an X-Men movie. The man likes being in tight leather. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…
Josh Lucas – Bland, boring, annoying to look at and loses points for starring in a Reese Witherspoon romcom. All that before we even get into Stealth and Poseidon. Let’s just movie on, shall we?
Orlando Bloom – Please!
No, all the actors vying for the action crown are merely pretenders to the throne, too scared to really go for broke in a genre that can provoke unintentional laughs just as easily as it can adrenaline-pumping thrills. Statham can not only bring the funny (check him in any of the Guy Ritchie flicks, but especially in Snatch), but he also brings the badassary necessary to be an action star. He doesn’t primp or pose or seem at all interested in his appearance. He just cares about kicking ass. That’s what I call an action star.
American audiences require five things out of their actions heroes.
1. An inhuman physique
2. A goofy accent and/or way of speaking
3. A cool name that can be wittled down to either just the first name or just the last.
4. Someone who looks cool holding a gun, outrunning a fireball or punching somebody in the face. Basically somebody who looks almost like they could really do all the things they’re doing on-screen.
5. A bare minimum of acting ability (i.e. just enough so that they can tune out the dialogue scenes and only remember the gunfights).
Statham satisfies on all accounts. He’s yoked out almost beyond belief. His body has gotten to the point where it’s now written into his contract that he must take off his shirt at least once in each movie, even when no scene really calls for it (an old Sly Stallone trick). And yet in most of his movies he’s curiously over-dressed, which in a way is almost cooler. He knows how ripped he is, yet hides it until just the right moment. An 80’s action hero mindset if there ever was one.
He’s British, so you have the goofy accent right there. And more power to him for overcoming the fact that he is British and yet still convincing as a pure-bred American action hero. We accept foreign action heroes, just look at Arnold or Van Damme, but we’re curiously apathetic towards Brits. Pierce Brosnan got by because of Bond. Nobody thinks Jude Law has what it takes. Irish Colin Farrell is more fun in dramas where he can walk around semi-drunk with a “Did I nail that extra over there, yet?” face on. And Ewan McGregor didn’t even look right in a Michael Bay movie. When Bay can’t make you an action hero, nobody can. And yet, Statham has succeeded with flying colors. I suspect it’s because he talks as minimally as he can, and he kicks ass whenever possible. We’ll forgive anyone so long as he’s willing to sock a dude in the face at the drop of a hat.
Jason Statham is an OK enough name, but I give him extra points because we share a first name. Lord knows Jason Priestley isn’t doing me any favors right now. Jason Biggs only set me back (the idiot piefucker). And Jason Scott Lee was last seen doing roids and begging Harvey Weinstein to let him be Kato in the defunct Green Hornet movie. So I’m in favor of any actor named Jason that makes me seem at all cool in comparison.
It’s pretty much a given that Statham looks the part. Check out the scene where he takes on six guys on an oil slick in The Transporter, where he fights the villain on a crashing airplane in Transporter 2. Or any scene he did in The Italian Job. When a movie bases its entire marketing campaign around you shooting two guns in mid-air (as it was for Transporter 2) you know you’ve reached a point where audiences believe in your action cred.
The last point is a small bonus, as I think he’s a pretty good actor, all things considered. I even endured the “so pretentious it actually stopped being pretentious and just became dumb” Jessica Biel / Chris Evans talkfest London, solely because Statham was in it. And though he reached his requisite one fist fight per movie minimum, he mostly just talked. And I dug the performance. He’s definitely a better actor than Arnold, Seagal, Van Damme and Chuck Norris (even though Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter”). I’d say he’s on par with Bruce Willis. Think about it, they’re both bald, they both try valiantly to rock a believable hairpiece (see Statham in Revolver), they both like to make the dorky quips, and whenever possible they like to take on roles that people wouldn’t expect (see Willis do sci-fi in The Sixth Sense or 12 Monkeys and see Statham do crappy in the Uwe Boll abortion A Dungeon Siege Tale).
You want one more reason Jason Statham is the new Last Action Hero? He actually likes making action movies. Most male actors today are concerned about typecasting, concerned about who they’re gonna nail at the wrap party, concerned about doing that all-important Oscar bait role. Statham, at least on the outset, doesn’t seem to care about any of that. He knows he’s a bruiser. He knows what got him here. He knows what audiences expect from him. And he gives it to them. It’s an honorable trait for an actor to give the audience what they want. Arnold built an entire career behind it. Sure he dipped his muscled hand into comedy every now and then, but he always came back to blowing shit up. Because that’s what he was good at and that’s what audiences wanted to see him do. I’ll see Arnold in anything so long as he whips out a big gun and says at least one cheesy one-liner (“You’re luggage,” is my favorite.) He could be 60 and I’d go see him in Eraser 6: It’s White Out Time.
Statham is the same way. Transporter 2 opened unexpectedly huge; he could have easily changed things up and done a lame comedy where has to protect a bunch of kids or something. But no, he takes a movie that sounds even crazier than his last one. His new action flick Crank has him running around trying to keep his adrenaline up, because if he doesn’t he’ll die (Basically it’s Speed 3, except he’s the bus). So he robs a liquor store, gets into fights, stands on a moving motorcycle, bones Amy Smart in public and fights a bad guy in an open air helicopter. Sounds like good times to me. It also sounds completely ludicrous, which is a sure sign you’re watching a throwback action flick. Fifteen years ago this would have been a perfect Bruce Willis movie.
Jason Statham is just the right guy to slowly revive the dying action genre. We need someone like him to resuscitate the need for mindless action that’s lying deep inside all of us. To forge ahead, undeterred by years of middling box office returns and apathetic audiences. To remind us all that there’s nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon than watch a well-ripped guy blow stuff up, shoot some bad guys, say some cheesy dialogue, show no emotion, outrun a fireball and save the girl.
The verdict is in and I find in favor of Jason Statham, the new Last Action Hero.