(Photo by Lionsgate courtesy Everett Collection)
Once, during a long-ago era called The ’80s, Hollywood action heroes roamed the Earth with bulging biceps and names like Sly, Arnold, and Bruce. With a limitless supply of weapons and wisecracks, they saved the world countless times, only to be exiled to the land of Direct-to-Video for their trouble, where they wandered lost throughout the ’90s and much of the aughts. But they’re fighting their way back from extinction, thanks in large part to the tenacious efforts of steely-eyed roughnecks like Jason Statham, the veteran of latter-day genre classics like Crank, The Bank Job, and recent Fast and Furious sequels and spinoffs, who rose to stardom on the strength of his appearances in Guy Ritchie‘s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. To celebrate his bravery in the face of indie dramas and romantic comedies, we’ve rounded up all of his major roles to offer a comprehensive look back at all Jason Statham movies, sorted by Tomatometer.
In Money Monster, a financial TV host (George Clooney) gets his show taken over by an angry audience member. The twist: it’s all in real-time (i.e. the 98 minutes it takes to watch this is the exact amount of time that passes in the movie), inspiring this gallery of 24 more in-the-moment movies.
In this week’s super-charged sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit, Crank (60%), the writing-directing team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (known simply as “Neveldine + Taylor”) continue the adrenaline-pumping adventures of hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) — who, as you may recall, experienced quite a rough 24 hours in the first film. You didn’t think a little high-altitude fall from a helicopter could keep Chev down, did you? This Friday’s Crank High Voltage picks up right where Crank ended, and Rotten Tomatoes was on set at various locations during production to witness manic action, public indecency, Bai Ling craziness, leather-clad biker shoot-outs and good old-fashioned fun — all the makings of a true-blue Crank flick.
Last spring, Rotten Tomatoes was lucky to be invited on two exclusive visits to the set of Crank High Voltage, where co-writers and co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank, Pathology) were putting poor Jason Statham through the ringer yet again. As the sequel picks up, Chev Chelios — who’s just killed his enemy, Ricky Verona, while falling from a helicopter — has survived the plunge and been scooped up by a band of Chinese medics. Chev wakes up after his heart has been surgically stolen and replaced, and must keep his temporary heart electrically charged just long enough to win back the girl (Amy Smart), fight off foes old and new (Clifton Collins, Jr., Corey Haim, David Carradine), and get his ticker back.
RT first visited the set during filming at the Hollywood Park Race Track, where Neveldine and Taylor were setting up Statham in scenes against the backdrop of live horse races. Only a section of the place had been roped off for filming; elsewhere, the track was filled with its usual Wednesday crowd. (Anyone in the industry will swear that movie sets are boring, but we won $15 between takes!)
Extras filled an outdoor scene as Statham stumbled through the crowd, in pursuit of Triad thug Johnny Vang (played by Art Hsu). It seems that Vang is connected to the Chinese gang that stole Chev’s heart, and though Lionsgate and the filmmakers are keeping a tight lid on spoilers, don’t be surprised if connections between familiar faces and new ones are revealed.
Off to the side, a little old lady sat in a chair patiently waiting for her big scene. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know which little old lady this was — Chev’s “dirty little whore” — against whom he rubs up at the track in order to generate friction. The entire set was tittering with anticipation to watch Statham slyly molest 87-year-old actress Danna Hansen, whose credits, incidentally, include bit parts in Being There, Stir Crazy, and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington. Needless to say, Hansen took the Statham rubdown with admirable grace, giving Crank 2 one of its standout comic gags.
True to their reputations, Neveldine and Taylor are more hands-on in filming than most directors, and shoot most scenes themselves. They work in tandem, each operating their own camera, and have been known to capture action sequences by following a rig on rollerblades. It’s no wonder that co-star Bai Ling called the pair young, crazy, and free: for Crank High Voltage, they upped the DIY factor by daring to use equipment that no other studio filmmakers have — consumer cameras.
It’s a producer’s dream, since Neveldine + Taylor’s cameras of choice both cost only a few thousand dollars apiece (the $3500 Canon XH-A1 and the even lighter, cheaper, Canon HF10, which runs about $1000); using in-camera tricks and their own cinematography, they promise a film that’s stylistically close to the first Crank — kinetic and handheld, with a picture quality that’s something between digital and film.
Next: RT visits the Malibu mansion for bikini babes, Bai Ling, shoot-outs and more
A few weeks later, RT dropped by a Malibu mansion off the Pacific Coast Highway for more exciting fare: namely, to watch girls in bikinis, shoot-outs, Bai Ling, and Efren Ramirez. These were scenes that ostensibly occur at the end of the film — where else do shoot-outs belong? — and we were treated to one HUGE spoiler… which, of course, we can’t disclose here. More on that later.
It was a delightfully tacky mansion, rumored in real life to have been constructed as a gift from some rich man to his lady. In Crank 2, this is where the beaten Chev Chelios winds up, alone amongst his enemies including Clifton Collins, Jr., who returns as El Huron. Bikini-clad beauties (and one entirely naked actress) lounge by the pool, as kept hussies are wont to do in the movies. “Vegas-y, shiny, sparkly…slutty,” is how the costume designer described the ladies, who variously scatter and are hit when gunfire explodes.
It’s here that two angels of sorts come to Chev’s rescue. The first is Venus (played by Efren Ramirez) who is the twin brother of Chev’s former sidekick, Kaylo (also played by Ramirez), who met his end in Crank. Venus is the polar opposite of Kaylo in appearance, and Ramirez was clearly having fun with it. Shirtless and wearing black leather pants, he’s a 5’7″ Goth–punk dynamo who comes to avenge the death of his brother — with a little help from a gaggle of gay leather-clad thugs and eccentrics.
Equally bizarre is Chev’s other new sidekick, Ria (played by Bai Ling, who we interview here), a free-spirited street walker who devotes herself to Chev — against his wishes — when he saves her life. Ria shows up with her posse of Asian female toughs (and a machine gun) to help Chev at the mansion.
As Ramirez practiced his stunt moves and his nunchaku skills by the pool, Bai Ling told us about how she played her character. “Ria is a beautiful, free, giving and loving character,” she said. “There’s an innocence in her. She’s crazy, but she’s innocent. I was telling my stunt double, she said, ‘How should I run through this fire?’ I said, you have to be crazy free, fun, and not controlled.“
While Statham gets most of the action in High Voltage, Ling says she gets a fair share of her own. “I have lots of ‘I’m gonna kick your ass!’ scenes. I kick them, I run through fire, I get hit by a car, I’m running with one shoe that has no heel…it’s a lot of action, a lot of humor. The film has a sense of humor; [my character] is kind of wacky, funky, modern, young, a free-spirited character.“
But back to that spoiler. Suffice to say, there’s a surprise waiting for Chev Chelios when he gets to the mansion…a real “WTF?” moment for fans. All will be revealed this Friday, as Crank High Voltage opens nationwide.
It’s not just Death Race that boasts a cameo from legend David Carradine. According to star Jason Statham, speaking to RT this week ahead of the UK release of Death Race, the action superstar let slip that Carradine would appear in Crank 2: High Voltage as well.
“We’ve got David Carradine in the film,” Statham told RT, “and he plays a character called ‘Puon Dong,’ who’s this really mad Asian Mafia guy.”
Carradine’s star has been on the ascendant once again since his appearance as the titular assassination victim in Quentin Tarantino‘s double dose of revenge, Kill Bill. But from the sounds of things, this role pays homage to his classic role in TV show Kung Fu, in which he played Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine.
Crank, which revolved around an injection administered to Statham’s character Chev Chelios that meant he had to keep his heart rate up to avoid death, was one of the craziest and most inventive action flicks of recent years. But its ending was fairly definite. Not so, says Statham, who explains the film’s plot. “Chev Chelios is running around with a plastic heart. They’re farming him for his organs, because he’s the man that cannot die, so they give him an ‘Aviacore,’ a totally artificial heart, and he’s trying to find his heart.
For the actor, the shoot was as entertaining as the script. “Neveldine and Taylor are the nuttiest directors I’ve ever worked for, and I’d repeatedly work for them time and time again, because they’re just so out there.
“Whatever the first one was, this one’s more – just completely rude, offensive and plain mad in every way. It’s great, there’s no movie like it and they’ve exceeded all expectations. To go and do that – balls to the wall – with no worries about trying to tone anything down, or to try to make it believable, you know, it’s just like a video game. There’s nothing more fun to do than to go and make something like that kind of a film, it’s pretty unique.”
Crank 2: High Voltage is currently scheduled for release in the US and the UK on 17th April 2009.
Jason Statham got his big screen break in Guy Ritchie‘s first two films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, before hitting Hollywood with starring roles in kung-fu film The One with Jet Li, as Frank Martin in The Transporter and in the hugely successful remake of The Italian Job. Jason has become the go-to guy for tough action characters with charm and humour, and has recently wowed critics with starring roles in Crank and The Bank Job, as well as two sequels to The Transporter franchise, and his latest role as Jensen Ames in the retooling of Roger Corman‘s Death Race 2000, Paul W.S. Anderson‘s Death Race.
Were you a fan of the original before you signed on for Death Race?
I was aware of it, but I never actually saw it. I bought the DVD, but its still in the cellophane. I remember sitting down with Paul and I said, “I bought the original.” He said, “Don’t worry; you don’t have to watch it.” The only similarity is that it’s a race to the death and it’s got Machine Gun Joe and Frankenstein – they’re two characters from the original – the rest is more homage. We didn’t get too tied down with trying to nail ourselves to the original. I mean, it’s 30 years ago now.
So there was no chance of it having any influence on how you would play it?
Exactly. He wanted to keep it fresh and not muddy the water, so that’s one of the exact reasons I didn’t watch it.
The cars looked awesome – how were they to drive? Did you get to do much driving yourself?
Yeah we did. They juiced up a couple of the ‘hero’ cars – they’re the ones that aren’t built to such a high extreme level, but one of them was 650 horsepower, and because they’re so heavy – they’d bolted on all these exterior plates, armour plating and all the other shit like the mini-guns – they needed to give it some extra juice so you can throw that thing around. But the vision out of those things is the worst, you know, there’s a little slit in the windscreen, no rear view mirror, no side view mirror, it’s a nightmare in terms of awareness of where your fellow drivers are. There were a lot of collisions, bumps and bangs but still a lot of fun.
We’re big fans of Crank at RT, can you tell us anything about Crank 2? How was it to film?
It was great. Six weeks of madness. Neveldine and Taylor are the nuttiest directors I’ve ever worked for, and I’d repeatedly work for them time and time again, because they’re just so out there.
It’s so offensive. Whatever the first one was, this one’s more – just completely rude, offensive and plain mad in every way. It’s great, there’s no movie like it and they’ve exceeded all expectations. To go and do that – balls to the wall – with no worries about trying to tone anything down, or to try to make it believable, you know, it’s just like a video game. There’s nothing more fun to do than to go and make something like that kind of a film, it’s pretty unique.
Where did you film it all?
It’s all in LA again. We’ve got David Carradine and he plays ‘Puon Dong,’ this really mad Asian Mafia guy, that… well I don’t to give too much of the plot away! It’s got Dwight Yoakam in it again, Amy Smart’s back and there’s a couple of other nuggets that I’m not gonna tell you about, keep those as a surprise. Chev Chelios is running around with a plastic heart. They’re farming him for his organs, because he’s the man that cannot die, so they give him an ‘Aviacore,’ a totally artificial heart, and he’s trying to find his heart. I’m giving too much away now! [laughs] Step back… step back!
Is there any truth in the rumour that you’re appearing in The Sweeney? Were you a fan of the original?
Yeah, I loved The Sweeney. I think Nick Love is a great filmmaker and the fact that Ray Winstone‘s in it – he’s one of my favourite actors and always has been – I’d crawl over broken glass to work with him. But I don’t know what’s happening with it, I don’t know whether they’ve got the script in the right spot that we want it in, so who knows?
Are you excited about Transporter 3 coming out?
Transporter 3 I’m very excited about. I know from what we’ve shot, it has potential to be the best of the three. I’m going to see it next Friday for the first time, so I’ll know a bit more then. There’s a new girl, that Luke literally found on the streets of New York, she’s the new chick. We’ve got Corey Yoen back as the action choreographer, so there’s some great fight sequences, and Frank Martins just doing the same old thing.
According to a report published yesterday, Crank 2: High Voltage is an official go, and for those of you who questioned where Chelios’ story could possibly go after the first movie, here’s a synopsis for the sequel that we totally swear we took directly from Variety:
In “Crank 2,” Chelios faces a Chinese mobster who has stolen his nearly indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working.
Variety notes that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the writers/directors responsible for the Crank films, will follow up the sequel with Game, a “futuristic thriller” starring Gerard Butler and Michael C. Hall. No battery-powered hearts in this one, unfortunately:
“Game” is a high-concept thriller set in a dystopian future. Amber Valletta, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, John Leguizamo, Johnny Whitworth, Zoe Bell and Kyra Sedgwick round out the cast. Principal photography begins Nov. 5 in Albuquerque, N.M.
The closing moments of 2006’s Crank may not have seemed like the most perfect setup for a sequel, but where there’s a will, there’s a way — and according to Empire, Brian Taylor, Mark Neveldine, and Jason Statham will be reuniting for Crank 2.
Promising that “Crank 2 will pick up exactly where Crank ends,” the filmmakers talked up the sequel to Empire, going on to say their studio and leading man are just as excited as they are:
“We’re finding that a lot of people were thinking, ‘Oh, Crank 2 can’t be done’,” adds Neveldine. “But we came up with an idea, we wrote the script, and after the studio read it they couldn’t believe that we pulled it off. And of course, the best test was giving it to Jason and Jason turned down every other project so he could do this, start this in the spring of next year. He was so excited, he couldn’t believe it.
“It’s going to be more sexual, more violent — more of everything,” laughs Taylor. “We realise with a movie like Crank, you can’t do a sequel and do 60% or 70% of what the original was. You have to go twice as hard. So that’s what we’re going to do. If we’re going to live up to the first one with the sequel — we’re taking it WAY past the point of the first one.”
Empire says the sequel is scheduled to start shooting next April, so you can probably safely add it to the list of pictures you’ll see in the next year or so, strike or no strike.
Batman takes on Cinderella Man at the box office as the Russell Crowe–Christian Bale Western remake 3:10 to Yuma heads into the multiplexes over what is traditionally a tumbleweed weekend in the marketplace. More action comes in the form of Shoot ‘Em Up which pits Clive Owen against Paul Giamatti while those craving comedy get the new laugher The Brothers Solomon. With summer gone and most students back in school, Hollywood has decided to roll out nothing but R-rated films this weekend.
Hoping to bounce back from last year’s critical and commercial disaster A Good Year, Oscar winner Russell Crowe leads the charge and aims for his first trip to the number one spot in nearly four years with 3:10 to Yuma. Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), the update on the 1957 semi-classic finds Bale playing a down-on-his-luck family man who takes the job of delivering a captured outlaw (Crowe) to the authorities. Having two strong actors face each other on screen is
usually a good thing and here the starpower should help bring in audiences. Reviews have been solid and since this genre plays to a more mature adult audience, the opinions of critics will make a big difference. The marketing push from Lionsgate has been commendable and with few other interesting new choices out there, Yuma should carve out its own space. Heading into 2,652 theaters, 3:10 to Yuma could open with roughly $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
LAST YEAR: The worst box office weekend of 2006 was led by the modest opening of the thriller The Covenant which debuted with only $8.9M which was enough to capture the crown. The Sony pic went on to gross $23.3M overall. Opening with weak results in second was the Ben Affleck starrer Hollywoodland with only $5.9M on its way to $14.4M for Focus. Following two weeks at number one, the football drama Invincible dropped to third with $5.6M for Buena Vista. The Weinstein Company’s Thai actioner The Protector premiered in fourth with $5M leading to only $12M. The Jason Statham action pic Crank ranked fifth with $4.9M for Lionsgate.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
The four-billion-dollar-plus summer comes to a close over the long Labor Day holiday weekend with three new wide releases all targeting male moviegoers. Slasher fans get to relive old days with the latest incarnation of Halloween, teens looking for a laugh get the ping pong comedy Balls of Fury, and adults interested in Kevin Bacon‘s brand of revenge have the action thriller Death Sentence. With target audiences for the new pics having lots of overlap, and the existing holdovers also catering to similar crowds, the marketplace will have to work hard to expand as many of these titles will eat into each other.
Setting a new industry record for the widest opening ever over Labor Day weekend, rock-star-turned-director Rob Zombie‘s Halloween attacks theaters aiming to connect with horror movie fans. The R-rated entry marks the first new installment in five years for a franchise about to hit the three-decade mark. 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection bowed to $12.3M and a solid $6,291 average in mid-July of that summer proving that Michael Myers still had the muscle to draw in his fans. The arrival of a new Halloween flick coupled with the selection of a buzzworthy director makes for an interesting combo that will spark interest with genre fans.
To say that horror has hit some bad luck at the box office this year is putting it lightly. R-rated fright flicks in 2007 have struggled but Halloween will try to change that. Excitement among fans is considerable and with no other gorefests out there, competition will come mainly from the many action films or teen comedies. The Jeepers Creepers films proved how successful Labor Day weekend could be for a horror pic and now MGM and The Weinstein Company hope demand will still be there for their newest entry. Attacking 3,472 theaters, Halloween might collect about $20M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend.
Since Labor Day weekend tends to be a catch-up time when people see popular flicks they’ve missed out on, another strong performance is likely to greet The Bourne Ultimatum which has easily been the top-grossing film of the past month. The new films will cause a distraction with younger moviegoers, but mature adults who may not have had time for Jason Bourne’s identity-revealing saga are sure to line up. Look for the four-day gross to dip by only 10% from last weekend giving the Universal blockbuster about $11M for the long weekend which would allow the assassin pic to cross the $200M mark on Monday.
Fellow threequel Rush Hour 3 should experience a larger drop and could fall by 25% to about $9M. That would put the total at $121M for New Line.
LAST YEAR: Mark Wahlberg scored back-to-back box office touchdowns with his sports drama Invincible which remained at number one for the second straight time with $15.4M over the four-day holiday weekend. Opening in the runnerup spot was Jason Statham‘s action pic Crank with $12.9M over the long weekend which edged out the debuting Nicolas Cage drama The Wicker Man which took in $11.7M. Final grosses reached $27.8M for the Lionsgate film and $23.6M for the Paramount pic. Rounding out the top five were Little Miss Sunshine with $9.6M and The Illusionist with $8.1M over four days.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Action stars Jet Li and Jason Statham face off this weekend in the new crime thriller War which leads a flood of new releases pouring into North American multiplexes trying to catch the final dollars of the summer movie season. The R-rated Lionsgate release finds the two playing an assassin and a federal agent, respectively, and will aim for young male audiences. Both actors have solid followings and the combination allows War to offer a two-for-one deal that will make the ticket price well worth it for many fans.
Li’s last films Fearless and Unleashed each bowed to just under $11M with averages of a little less than $6,000. Statham’s Crank opened over Labor Day weekend last year with $10.5M and an average of $4,158 over three days while during the same holiday frame in 2005 his action sequel Transporter 2 debuted to $16.5M with a $5,008 average over three days. Lionsgate has had a strong marketing push on War and should connect with male action fans. Last weekend’s top three films Superbad, Rush Hour 3, and The Bourne Ultimatum will all provide some direct competition, but a solid bow is likely. Opening in 2,271 theaters, War could premiere with about $14M this weekend.
Rush Hour 3 will race past the $100M mark this weekend and could slide by 50% to around $10.5M. That would give New Line $107M after 17 days. Fellow threequel The Bourne Ultimatum should have a better hold and drop by 40% to roughly $12M putting the Universal smash at $185M overall with its eye on the double-century mark by Labor Day.
LAST YEAR: Buena Vista topped the charts with its football saga Invincible which bowed at number one with $17M on its way to a solid $57.8M. Will Ferrell‘s comedy Talladega Nights placed second with $8.1M while Little Miss Sunshine expanded and jumped up to third place with $7.4M. Warner Bros. opened its comedy Beerfest in fourth with $7M leading to a $19.2M final. World Trade Center rounded out the top five with $6.5M in its third frame. Two smaller films debuting far below were Universal’s Idlewild with $5.7M and New Line’s How to Eat Fried Worms with $4M. Final tallies reached $12.6M and $13M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
It’s not a big surprise when we share the news of a "Spider-Man 3" or "Saw 4," but recently we’ve been hearing about a few possible follow-ups that we didn’t see coming. Namely, the Jason Statham action flick "Crank" and the Mel Gibson comedy/western "Maverick."
If you saw the "Crank" flick, then you’re probably wondering how writer/directors Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine are going to pull a sequel off, but they’re not spilling any beans just yet. Here’s what they had to say: "There will be a sequel to Crank yes. Prepare to Crank again. And you know the "is it a sequel or prequel" question… IT’S A SEQUEL. We’re not selling out and going prequel. We are picking up where the last movie left off."
And if that’s not curious enough, it looks like Mel Gibson wants to get back in front of the cameras and make a sequel. Nope, not to "Mad Max" or "Lethal Weapon." He says those series have more than run their course by now. Nope, his new plan is to partner up with James Garner again and give the world a "Maverick 2."
From Mr. Gibson: "There’s talk of doing another Maverick. Garner and I have been looking at that for a while. It’d be fun to play that character again … It won’t be happening immediately, but I dare say, it’ll happen."
We shall see.
If you’re making a gritty action flick and you need a hardcore bad-ass for the lead role, heck, you could do a whole lot worse than Jason Statham.
Statham, best known for his work in "Crank," "Snatch," and both "Transporter" flicks, is about to sign on to star in Paul (W.S, not Thomas) Anderson’s "Death Race," which is a (yep) remake of a 1975 Roger Corman movie called "Death Race 2000." (That one starred Sylvester Stallone, David Carradine, and Martin Kove.)
If memory serves, "DR2K" was a tongue-in-cheek, yet really violent, sci-fi adventure about a vicious road race in which drivers got bonus points for mayhem and murder. (I may have to give that flick a fresh rental.) One wonders if Anderson’s new version (he’s writing and directing) will be more of a full-bore action movie. Nothing against the guy, but flicks like "Soldier," "Resident Evil," and "Alien vs. Predator" don’t exactly scream "sense of humor."
Source: The Hollywood Reporter