The random action movie gods must be smiling on me, because this here movie was damn fun! Coming off the blah of the last two and seeing nothing promising about this one, I wasn't in the least bit excited, but from start to finish this is a well-paced, exciting movie with some excellent cinematography. There is some dark, dark, nasty shit going on in this one, but it's pulled together into a cohesive narrative and just about every moment of this film works really well.
I was almost immediately hooked by Statham losing his wife and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl's story. Particularly good work by the latter and by far one of the best jobs I've seen of a random child actor being asked to play along with some pretty freaky stuff. This one couldn't be any different than Killer Elite in terms of who you should be rooting for. There's Statham and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl against, well, everyone. I love that Statham was about to finally give up and jump in front of a train when he sees this little girl hiding and that gives him purpose. That was pretty atypical for this sort of movie and means that he really has very little to lose other than the girl from that point forward.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out the several wonderful surprise moments here. There were at least four or five times where something made me laugh out loud or say "no way!" because they usually don't play out that way. Statham's wife is killed off camera and it's no trick, she's just gone. He has Igor Jijikine (love that guy) held at gunpoint unarmed on the ground very early on in the movie and he just shoots him dead. Yes! That's what you're supposed to do, not have some sudden attack of conscience for the guys who just tried (and will try again) to kill you. It's that moment when you mentally say "he should just shoot him and be done with it" and he actually does! That sort of thing happened again and again and was so refreshing. After the first couple of times, the film has pretty well established that it's not going to play true to form and you really don't know what's going to happen next.
There are some really great bits of cinematography and editing as well. Overall look and feel were fantastic and something that wouldn't have been out of place in an early Die Hard movie. Great scene where the girl is being told the plan by her Chinese handlers in a perfectly normal seeming car ride when they're suddenly and unexpectedly plowed into from the side. Also loved the scene where Statham and Ill-Mannered Chinese Girl are trying to escape the police (and probably one of the other groups of bad guys... hard to keep track) and he backs up quickly and you see a guy in his rear view mirror as he runs him down and then the guy is next seen crashing onto the hood of the car to the pavement. He then proceeds to immediately speed forward and runs the dude over again and we see him tumbling off the back through the rear view mirror again. All in what sure looked like one take.
Badassery Quotient - 11
Really over-the-top violence, action, car chases, gunplay... you name it. All really well executed with a great primal oomph to every scene. Statham is early on established as badass by what he says and does, not some blah blah exposition. This ranks right up there with The Transporter as one of my favorite roles of his.
Rewatchability - Yes please!
Soooooo refreshing to run into another personal favorite movie this late into the run. No idea why I didn't hear more about this when it was released last year as it must have had pretty decent word of mouth. It's not Oscar-caliber anything, but it's an excellent example of a classic Statham role and for a change, the director, story, cinematography, and supporting actors are all up to snuff. One of the more well-rounded and enjoyable Statham movies and I would actively drag people to watch this, whether they know who Statham is or not.
Up next - Expendables 2! The end is nigh! Yes, I just watched this a couple of months ago as an Arnold movie, but it'll be fun to watch again and I'll try to keep more of an eye on Statham and why he disappears for a good chunk of the middle of the film. This will be the last film I have to watch until Parker comes out on home video next Tuesday. I've officially survived the worst of it!