Jason Statham isn’t so much an actor as he is a brand. When you go to McDonald’s you know you can expect the two all beef patties, special sauce and the sesame seed bun to taste the same whether you’re in Toronto or Hong Kong. It’s that kind of brand management that has made Statham a star. You know what to expect from his movies—rippling abs, some high kicking action, his trademarked facial stubble and loads of explosions. It’s a simple formula but one that works for his fans. Perhaps the advertising slogan for his new film, The Mechanic: Resurrection should be New, But Still Exactly the Same.
Statham returns to the role of Arthur Bishop, a part originated by Charles Bronson and resuscitated by Statham in 2011’s The Mechanic. The new film finds the actor playing a variation on his Statham Character #1 in which he is a “loner with a past who must protect a loved one,” (as opposed to Statham Character #2 which is the “loner with a past who must protect a youthful innocent.”). As Bishop he has put the bloody work of professional assassin in the past and is now trying to lead a normal life. When a villain kidnaps the love of his life, however, he must get his hands dirty and return to his specialty, killing people and making it look like an accident.
What Statham lacks in range he makes up for in muscle tone. His well crafted on-screen persona is equal parts stoic masculinity and lithe athletic ability. He’s Charles Bronson (who starred in the original The Mechanic in 1972) with better moves, a man of action and few words in the mould of Clint Eastwood, if Clint had a better roundhouse kick. In The Mechanic: Resurrected, his 38th film since 1998 (and he has at least three more in the pipeline), he doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen him do before, but no matter, he simply does the things we expect him to do. That’s what brands do, and as movie brands go these days he’s about as reliable as it gets.
He is either remarkably consistent or just really enjoys playing guys who can break your neck with a steely gaze. Recently a scientific poll—OK, I posted a question on facebook—posed this question: What makes Statham movies so popular? Here are some of the comments:
- His Blue Steel stare puts Zoolander to shame!
- His complete lack of facial movement? It’s like if Buster Keaton were an emotionless British killing machine.
- He always manages to kick someone’s butt while being tied to a chair.
- Not since Don Johnson, circa Miami Vice, has an actor managed to maintain a perfect three-day stubble…
Statham’s movies are predictable as heck. “You gotta be kidding me!” you’ll be tempted to say at some of the plot twists, if only the movie’s characters didn’t beat you to it. They are cliché-a-thons, but because Statham understands his audience and persona his films are dumb good fun. His über-macho presence is more important than the scripts. As long as he is in motion, running and leaping, kicking and punching, and giving voice to action movie platitudes in his distinctive English rasp, his pictures work.