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Redemption: Statham Hits London’s Mean Streets
is not exactly “Garbo Talks,” but as hooks go, “Statham Cries” is pretty good. The action star’s big close-up comes in the
right vehicle. In a throwback to the
angry young anti-hero films Michael Caine cut his teeth on, Statham prowls the
mean streets of London in screenwriter-director Steven Knight’s Redemption (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in select cities.
by his war crimes, a shell-shocked former Special Forces soldier lives a
homeless existence to evade a certain court martial. Deeply traumatized by his experiences, he
often suffers from flashbacks and hallucinations. Terrorized by local thugs, “Joey” finds
unlikely refuge in an exclusive hipster flat.
Unfortunately, his companion Isabel is captured and consigned to a
the resources of his unwitting host (conveniently abroad for the season), Joey
cleans himself up and takes work as an enforcer for a Chinese crime syndicate. With the reluctant help of inner-city mission
nun Sister Cristina, Joey Jones (as he now calls himself) tries to track down
Isabel. Yet, despite his erratic
behavior, a strange relationship develops between them.
the “troubled” vet is always a problematic device. However, the film is rather sensitive in its
depiction of Joey Jones, while never absolving him of his sins. There are definitely beatdowns in Redemption, but the film is more
concerned with mood and character development.
Knight demonstrates a keen understanding of tension-and-release, so when
the violence flares up, it never feels gratuitous.
Oscar winning cinematographer Chris Menges loves the neon lights and shadows of
Redemption’s nocturnal world, getting
all the Miami Vice he ever had in him
out of his system. The film looks great,
aside from a few awkward scenes of Jones’ delirium. Statham is also surprisingly good as Jones,
convincingly portraying his violent unpredictability. Viewers are never quite sure how he will
react in a given situation, which is a major reason why Redemption works so well.
also shares some richly intriguing chemistry with Agata Buzek (the daughter of former
Polish Prime Minister and Solidarity activist Jerzy Buzek), whose intelligent
but tightly wound performance adds significant depth to the film. The notion that Jones and Sister Agata are
sharing a mutual “wild patch” in their lives may not exactly ring true, but it still
works within the film’s dramatic context.
Knight nicely maintains the tragic logic
throughout Redemption, but the
NSA-ish surveillance motif book-ending the proper narrative feels wholly out of
place in his street level tale. Nonetheless,
Redemption is a stylishly executed
over-achiever that is only really missing the Roy Budd-inspired
soundtrack. Recommended for fans of
Statham and old school payback movies, Redemption
opens this Friday in New York at the Village 7.
Labels: British Cinema, Jason Statham