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.
Critics Consensus:The One plays more like a video game than a movie and borrows freely from other, better sci-fi actioners, burying Jet Li's spectacular talents under heaps of editing and special effects.
Synopsis: In a stunning dual role, international star Jet Li portrays Gabriel Yulaw, a police officer confronted with a sinister form... [More]
Critics Consensus: John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars is not one of Carpenter's better movies, filled as it is with bad dialogue, bad acting, confusing flashbacks, and scenes that are more campy than scary.
Synopsis: Long inhabited by human settlers, the Red Planet has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated Earth. Nearly 640,000 people... [More]
Critics Consensus: Like its predecessors, Expendables 3 offers a modicum of all-star thrills for old-school action thriller aficionados -- but given all the talent assembled, it should have been a lot more fun.
Synopsis: Years ago, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) co-founded the Expendables with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). After Stonebanks became an arms dealer,... [More]
Critics Consensus: While it certainly has more on its mind than the average Jason Statham action thriller, Redemption doesn't quite capitalize on its premise -- or on its star's strong, committed performance.
Synopsis: A troubled war veteran (Jason Statham) assumes a new identity and becomes a vigilante in a bid to atone for... [More]
Critics Consensus:Crank's assaultive style and gleeful depravity may turn off casual action fans, but audiences seeking a strong dose of adrenaline will be thrilled by Jason Statham's raucous race against mortality.
Synopsis: Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), a hit man wanting to go straight, lets his latest target slip away, then he awakes... [More]
Critics Consensus: Taut, violent, and suitably self-deprecating, The Expendables 2 gives classic action fans everything they can reasonably expect from a star-studded shoot-'em-up -- for better and for worse.
Synopsis: Mercenary leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and the rest of the Expendables team reunite when Mr.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Simultaneously broad and progressive, Spy offers further proof that Melissa McCarthy and writer-director Paul Feig bring out the best in one another -- and delivers scores of belly laughs along the way.
Synopsis: Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey,... [More]
A remake scoring better than its original counterpart? Rare, but it’s been done before as seen in this week’s gallery of every movie remake that got a higher Tomatometer than the first try!
This week on home video, we’ve got a decent number of new releases, as well as some noteworthy reissues, which is a nice change from what we’ve been seeing as of late. The flip side of that is there are a few new selections this week that didn’t really do so well from a critical standpoint. With that in mind, we do have some good stuff, including ESPN’s documentary film series in its entirety, a kung fu cult favorite and a Paul Newman classic on Blu-Ray, and a new Criterion. Have at it, folks!
Who knew when Jason Statham got his big break in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that he would become such a bankable action star? Statham has emerged as one of this generation’s most reliable rock’em, sock’em actors, and even if his films weren’t always critically lauded, they always delivered the action in spades. While the original Charles Bronson-powered 1972 The Mechanic was slightly more pensive, this year’s remake opted to go with more high-octane action, starring Statham as hitman Arthur Bishop and Ben Foster as Bishop’s apprentice, Steve McKenna. Unbeknownst to Steve, Arthur has murdered his father Harry (Donald Sutherland) by order of the organization of killers that employs Arthur. When Steve is less than discreet on his first job, the organization takes notice, and a web of intrigue unravels as loyalties are tested and double-crosses exposed. Critics felt that the two lead actors were well cast and enjoyable to watch, but they were also disappointed by the mind-numbing violence and action thriller clichés, earning this movie a squarely middling 53% Tomatometer. If the negatives mentioned above don’t deter you, and you’re a fan of the actors, this may be a satisfying romp for a Friday night.
Sir Anthony Hopkins has made a LOT of movies, and even now, in his mid-70s, he continues to be a prolific actor, lending an air of gravitas even to superhero flicks like Thor. But earlier this year, Hopkins headlined a supernatural thriller that, by most accounts, just wasn’t that thrilling. Inspired by true events, The Rite centers on a young, skeptical priest named Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) who is sent to apprentice under the mysterious Father Lucas (Hopkins), whose experience in conducting exorcisms leads Kovak to reexamine his own faith. Critics felt that Hopkins was solid, as usual, but also that the script itself lacked any immediacy, dawdling along at a snail’s pace without many chills to satisfy true horror fans. They also felt that O’Donoghue’s performance in the leading role left something to be desired. The end result was an unfortunate 19% Tomatometer score, a small box office return, and a transition to the home video market less than four months after its theatrical release. It might be worth checking out for Hopkins’s creepy performance, but then again, you might just be better off renting The Silence of the Lambs for that.
Natalie Portman is so hot right now. Wait… That’s how we begun last week’s writeup for No Strings Attached. Well, to further reiterate, the Black Swan star has already been in five movies this year, and only Thor has been Fresh. Unfortunately, The Other Woman received an even lower Tomatometer score than No Strings Attached, so don’t look to this film to be one of Portman’s big resume-builders. Based on the Ayelet Waldman novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, The Other Woman stars Portman as Emilia Greenleaf, a recent Harvard Law grad who becomes the second wife of an older, high-powered attorney (Scott Cohen) and must learn to deal with her new husband’s ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow), as well as her new stepson (Charlie Tahan), after she and her husband lose their infant daughter. While critics praised Portman’s performance in the film, they unfortunately found little else to like, calling Don Roos’s direction clumsy and his script cluttered and overly melodramatic. If you’re on a Black Swan high, and you just want to watch Portman emote, then this will be a great pickup for you. Otherwise, probably not so much.
There’s been a little bit of grumbling going on about the recent tendency of studios to water down horror films and thrillers to a PG-13 rating, specifically in order to draw in younger — and therefore, much broader — audiences. When the film is good, however, the practice has little bearing on the outcome, and when the film is panned, some wonder whether or not it might have benefited from a bit more grit. According to critics, however, there’s very little that could have saved The Roommate, which was so devoid of chills, thrills, or even cheap titillation that it didn’t even fall into “so bad, it’s good” territory. With echoes of the early ’90s thriller Single White Female, the story centers on college freshman Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) and her new roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester), who, it turns out, is emotionally unstable and obsesses over Sara so much that she begins interfering in Sar’?s life, with drastic consequences. Despite featuring a handful of perennial “hottest girls of the year” in the cast and sporting a relatively broad premise with some potential, The Roommate fails to deliver on any level. But if you’re just interested in watching Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester on screen for an hour and a half, by all means, pick this up.
Director Brad Anderson proved his mettle with indie hits like Session 9 and The Machinist, as well as the critically acclaimed thriller Transsiberian, demonstrating he can craft a dark and effective psychodrama. So what went wrong with Vanishing on 7th Street? Critics felt that the film’s Twilight Zone-esque story was effective at times, but that it also lost its novelty ? and narrative thrust ? as the plot progressed. Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, and Jacob Latimore play survivors of a rapture-like citywide blackout that seemingly evaporates all of Detroit’s citizens, leaving only their clothes behind. As the four stragglers unite at a bar to plan their next course of action, they discover that the darkness itself is the culprit of all the supernatural goings on. While Anderson does an admirable job setting the mood and basking in the atmosphere of the movie, critics felt that too many questions went unanswered, leading only to an unsatisfying conclusion to a film they felt was more style than story. If you’re a fan of the director’s previous movies, this one may work for you, but at 51% on theTomatometer, it’s not going to please everyone.
For fans of both sports and cinema, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is a godsend. To celebrate the network’s 30th anniversary, the Worldwide Leader commissioned 30 prominent filmmakers to each direct a one hour film about a particular sports-related subject. The result is a remarkable collection that should appeal to both sports fans and cineastes (a few of the movies played at prominent festivals). The series’ killer lineup includes new movies from Barry Levinson, John Singleton, Barbara Kopple, and even Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash; the films cover such fascinating subjects as Muhammad Ali’s late career, the rise of fantasy sports, and the colorful history of the United States Football League. ESPN Films: 30 for 30 Limited Edition Collector Set contains all 30 films, plus deleted scenes, introductions from the filmmakers, and extended interviews.
If you’re either a kung fu or hip-hop enthusiast, then you’re already familiar with the film that spawned a thousand Wu-Tang Clan references. Five Deadly Venoms is one of the classic Shaw Brothers martial arts films sampled in various places on the Staten Island rap supergroup’s iconic debut album, and for good reason: Five Deadly Venoms‘s focus on various kung fu styles fit perfectly with the Wu-Tang’s collection of eccentric personalities. The story is relatively straightforward: the master of the “Poison Clan” is dying, and he suspects that some of his former pupils, each one a specialist in a specific animal-based kung fu style, are planning to lay claim to the fortune the clan has amassed. To stop them, the master sends his last pupil to seek out the others and stop the masterminds behind the scheme. Now, did Five Deadly Venoms have to be put on Blu-Ray? Probably not, as part of the movie’s charm is its old-school feel. On top of that, there’s very little information on what special features, if any, are included. But if you simply want to own the movie in high definition, well, this would be the time to pick it up.
The work of Henri-Georges Clouzot is often compared to that of Alfred Hitchcock — a flattering association, to be sure, but one that doesn’t quite do this legendary Frenchman’s pitch-black, politically-minded thrillers justice. Quentin Tarantino name-checked Clouzot’s paranoid classic Le Corbeau in Inglourious Basterds, and The Wages of Fear remains one of the best slow-burn action flicks ever. However, Clouzot’s rep as a master of suspense was solidified with Diabolique, which featured a twist ending that scared the pants off international audiences six years before Psycho. In Diabolique, the wife and mistress of an autocratic boarding school headmaster team up to murder him ? but their plan quickly goes awry when they can’t find his body. The new Criterion Collction edition features a sparkling transfer of the film, plus interviews and commentary with Clouzot scholars and the movie’s original theatrical trailer.
Paul Newman won his one and only Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Fast Eddie Felson in Martin Scorsese’s 1986 film The Color of Money, but the roots of the character were sown decades prior in Robert Rossen’s 1961 classic The Huslter, for which, ironically enough, Newman was also nominated for the same award. Based on the Walter Tevis novel of the same name, The Hustler, which co-starred Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott, was a commercial and critical success, and found its place among the most celebrated American films to date. For those unfamiliar, the story revolves around an ambitious pool shark (Newman) who challenges an old pro (Gleason) and loses everything he’s got, forcing him to strike out on his own, compromise his ideals, and learn some hard lessons about life in the process. It’s a darker role for Newman than many were used to seeing, but his nuanced performance in The Hustler displayed the kind of range that would make Newman a leading man for decades to come. The brand new 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray features many of the same extras found on the DVD Special Edition, but also includes Fox career retrospectives for Newman and Gleason, as well as a radio interview with Walter Tevis.
New films with demons and assassins enjoyed moderate debuts while Oscar contenders for Best Picture scored solid sales figures but the overall North American box office remained stuck in a funk. Another snowstorm affected theaters in the Northeast but a weekend with football made audiences more available.
Opening at number one with a respectable but not stellar debut was the supernatural thriller The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins which scared up an estimated $15M which was enough to lead the weak frame. The Warner Bros. release about an American sent to the Vatican to study with a priest that specializes in exorcisms averaged a decent $5,027 from 2,985 locations. Reviews for the PG-13 pic were poor. Given the lack of scary movies since Halloween and the past success of exorcism-related films, a larger opening could have been expected. Last summer’s no-star mockumentary The Last Exorcism debuted to $20.4M. The CinemaScore for Rite was a B and the film skewed older as 64% of the crowd was 25 and over.
Dropping a notch to second place, but holding up very well in its sophomore frame, was the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher comedy No Strings Attached with an estimated $13.7M. Declining by only 31%, the Paramount release raised its ten-day tally to a solid $39.7M and could see a final gross of $70-80M. Unlike many other recent star-driven comedies, Strings was not too expensive to produce thanks to a $25M budget and will turn into a nice moneymaker for its backers. A lack of football this weekend certainly helped the female-skewing pic broaden its audience to include more young men.
Two action films claimed third place with each reporting an estimated Friday-to-Sunday take of $11.5M. Sony’s The Green Hornet fell only 35% and enjoyed a good hold pushing its 17-day total to $78.8M on its way to a little past the $100M mark.
Jason Statham’s latest action vehicle The Mechanic opened with an estimated $11.5M as well and reached the higher end of the range the actor has seen lately when anchoring a film. The R-rated remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film averaged a decent $4,255 from 2,703 theaters for CBS Films. It was the second widest debut ever for a Statham-anchored action film behind only the 3,303 playdates for Transporter 2. Mechanic‘s debut came as good news to the action star who has stumbled in recent years with Crank: High Voltage and The Bank Job which debuted with $7M and $5.9M, respectively, but bounced back last summer as one of the main ingredients in Sylvester Stallone’s action hit The Expendables.
To no surprise, Mechanic played best to the guys. The audience was 61% male and 64% over the age of 25. The CinemaScore was only a B- but the Friday-to-Saturday increase of 30% was more than twice the 14% of the frame’s other new release The Rite. CBS Films paid only $5M for North American rights plus P&A.
Final grosses to be released on Monday will determine the true third place film. Sony projected a 38% Saturday-to-Sunday decline for Hornet while Mechanic‘s Sunday was estimated to fall by only 31%. Most films in the top ten were projecting in the 35-40% range
Best Picture contender The King’s Speech, which led all films with a dozen Academy Award nominations last week, saw its ticket sales surge thanks to the extra media attention and 877 additional screens. The Weinstein Co. release took in an estimated $11.1M, up a solid 41%, from 2,557 theaters after an expansion from 1,680 sites. Its average of $4,342 was only slightly down from last weekend’s $4,676. The Colin Firth-Geoffrey Rush drama has banked a strong $72.2M and is now headed past the $100M mark. Fueling its Oscar momentum, Speech director Tom Hooper won the top prize on Saturday from the Directors Guild of America boosting his odds significantly for winning the comparable award at the Oscars. Until this weekend, The Social Network‘s David Fincher had been seen as the front-runner.
Rival Best Picture foe True Grit enjoyed a bump at the box office too inching up 4% to an estimated $7.6M. But unlike Speech, Grit actually lost theaters. Paramount’s hit Western now stands at $148.4M and is on course to reach more than $175M which is incredible for the genre and for the Coen brothers. The Dilemma suffered the worst decline in the top ten sliding 40% to an estimated $5.5M upping the cume to a lackluster $40.6M for Universal.
Another pair of contenders for the top Oscar followed, each displaying potent legs. Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan dropped 13% to an estimated $5.1M and was followed by Paramount’s The Fighter which took in an estimated $4.1M for a scant 3% dip. Both films have been in wide release since December 17 and shed some screens this round. Totals stand at $90.7M and $78.4M, respectively. Still on the road to nine-digit territory, the leggy kidpic Yogi Bear rounded out the top ten with an estimated $3.2M, off 17%, for a $92.5M total.
Fox Searchlight re-expanded its other Best Picture contender 127 Hours going from 69 to 916 locations and collected an estimated $2.1M this weekend bumping the cume to $13.4M.
The Mexican-American comedy From Prada to Nada saw a soft debut in limited release opening to an estimated $1.1M from 256 theaters. Lionsgate’s pic about privileged Beverly Hills sisters forced to move to a tough Latino neighborhood in East Los Angeles averaged a mild $4,297. The Spanish-language drama Biutiful, featuring an Oscar-nominated performance by Javier Bardem, fared well in its limited bow grossing an estimated $461,000 from 57 sites for a solid $8,088 average. Including previous grosses from its Oscar-qualifying run in late December, the Roadside Attractions title has taken in $623,000 to date. Snubbed during the early part of awards season, the serious drama about a dying father has now entered the spotlight thanks to nods for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $88.2M which was down 15% from last year when Avatar stayed in the top spot with $31.3M; and off 8% from 2009 when Taken opened at number one with a surprisingly strong $24.7M.
If you’re looking for an action star that can simultaneously seem both tough-as-nails and emotionally vulnerable, Jason Statham is your man. Critics say the star brings a level of emotional heft and gritty brawn to The Mechanic, which is otherwise a so-so action flick with some decent thrills but little originality. Based upon a 1972 Charles Bronson vehicle (pun intended), Statham stars as an existential hit man who seeks vengeance after a close friend is killed. He teams up with his friend’s son (Ben Foster) to get the bad guys, but soon our heroes are on the run themselves. The pundits say The Mechanic is pretty standard stuff, with little to distinguish it beyond Statham, who’s efficient and cool as always. (Check out Foster’s Five Favorite Films here.)
Given the number of horror flicks who turn demonic possession into schlock, The Rite gets points for taking the battle between good and evil seriously. However, critics say there’s a difference between being serious and being dull, and despite a typically classy performance from Anthony Hopkins, The Rite is too much of a slog to deliver much in the way of thrills. Colin O’Donoghue stars as a seminary student of shaky faith who travels to the Vatican to learn how to perform exorcisms. Under the tutelage of Father Lucas (Hopkins), the young man soon finds that the powers of evil are very strong indeed, and he must conjure the strength to fight for good. The pundits say The Rite has its moments, but Hopkins can’t elevate a script that takes way to long to get moving. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down star Rutger Hauer’s best-reviewed movies.)
Also opening this week in limited release:
Poetry, about a sixtysomething woman who enrolls in a poetry class to stave off personal demons, is at 100 percent.
Strongman, a documentary about the sad decline of a champion muscleman, is at 100 percent.
Lemmy, a doc about the legendary frontman of Motorhead, is at 82 percent.
Kaboom, a sci-fi black comedy about a group of swingin’ college students, is at 81 percent.
When We Leave, a drama about a woman trying to escape an abusive relationship in Istanbul, is at 80 percent.
From hard drama to bruising action, Ben Foster’s varied resume declares him an actor willing to go many places for a performance. He all but stole Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog, more than held his own against Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in 3:10 To Yuma, and earned some deserved acclaim for his turn as an American soldier in 2009’s critical favorite, The Messenger.
This week, Foster stars alongside Jason Statham in the action thriller The Mechanic, a noisy remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson vehicle. Statham takes the Bronson role of the professional assassin double-crossed into murdering his boss, with Foster the dead man’s son who becomes an apprentice to dad’s killer. The talented actor brings an unusual level of edge and tension for this kind of film; in return, the movie gave him his share of physical souvenirs.
“I got pretty banged up,” he admits, “but that’s part of the fun. You get the opportunity to scare the **** out of yourself.” Doing so involved performing many of his own stunts — including a spectacular 30-story fall down the side of a skyscraper, attached to a cable. Statham, Foster says, spurred him on. “You wanna step up to his level of athleticism and stone-cold courage,” he explains. “That guy’s got some nuts, you know — he does some scary ****.”
Back in the relative safety of a hotel suite, we sat down with Foster to ask him his five favorite films. And here they are.
You couldn’t get away with making that movie today. It’s wild. It’s a wild film, and it’s the great American dream gone wrong. It’s Citizen Kane on its ass. It’s a man who comes from nothing and builds a world and loses an empire and finds love. I mean, it’s a huge movie; and absolutely insane. I watch that several times a year — it’s a go-to on the road.
I would be embarrassed to begin to talk about Dr. Strangelove, because there has been so much written about it. It’s so bleak. And Peter Sellers is perfect. He’s just perfect. Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick built this doomsday political satire, in the fists of the Cold War, and made the end of the world hysterical. We’re bumbling idiots, all of us. We’re all walking through dark rooms of our life, bumping into furniture, and it’s shocking. I think we all enjoy watching people who are in authority positions act like bumbling idiots; it satisfies part of our ego, I’m sure, on some level. Sellers’ commitment to those characters… the scene that stands out is when he’s trying to get change to make the phone call to stop the bomb, and that security guard won’t let him break government property to get the change. The frustration of that is as painful as it is hysterical.
Male camaraderie, male love, is a difficult subject to show on film. What does it mean to have one of your best friends pass away? When that unit dies, how do you deal with it? I’m not a married man but I’m sure that when I’m married and have kids I’ll see Husbands in a new light. It’s regular guys trying to make sense of this life, having a good time while they’re doing it; running from their own lives and trying to distract themselves with hookers and gambling and drinking, and they all have families to go back to. They just don’t wanna leave the party. It’s male camaraderie at its most loving and brutal: these guys are terrible to each other, but they’d do anything for each other, and that kind of friendship, those values, mean a lot to me. The way they shot the film, the way they lost funding — there’re these wild stories of how to make a movie that you care about. They lost financing. As the story goes, they put the last bit of money — and they’re half way through the film, they’ve been shooting for six months — they put all the money to throw a party. They got dancers and girls and piano players and I think there was like an elephant, and they invited all these studio heads to come to this party sequence that they were filming — and when they studio saw the scene they said, “This movie’s huge, it’s wild, we’ll cover the rest of the film.” They got the rest of the financing. The scene’s not in the movie — it was never planned to be. So that spirit still excites me. The camaraderie feels familiar.
I think I’ve seen it five times in the past two months. I can’t stop watching that picture. The way they edited that — the dramatic scenes have as much musicality as the dance numbers, but it’s completely naturalistic. A man facing his own death; he’s creating his own end. He’s riffing on Lenny Bruce, riffing on his own material, his need to connect, his love of women, and his own mortality and relationship to family. It’s a staggering film. It’s Bob Fosse’s “See ya, and goodnight.”
A fifth one, that’s tough. What’s a go-to? So many great things out there. The Iron Giant‘s pretty terrific. When you’ve been on the road for a while, and you’re lonely… yeah, that film makes me cry. I love that movie. [laughs]