Total Recall: Jason Statham's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Killer Elite star.
Once, during a long-ago era called "the 1980s," 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 -- and they were exiled to the land of Direct to Video for their trouble, where they wandered lost throughout the 1990s and much of the aughts. But they're fighting their way back from extinction now, thanks in large part to the tenacious efforts of steely-eyed roughnecks like Jason Statham -- and to thank him for his bravery in the face of indie dramas and romantic comedies (as well as his leading role in Killer Elite), we've decided to dedicate this week's feature to a list of his finest films. Are you tough enough to Total Recall, Statham style?
10. Transporter 2
After the explosive conclusion of the first Transporter, steely-eyed Frank Martin (Jason Statham) made a transatlantic move from France to Miami -- but he didn't go far enough to escape from trouble. Transporter 2 finds Frank playing chauffeur to a boy whose wealthy father (Matthew Modine) has run afoul of Colombian gangsters, triggering a series of events that includes a kidnapping, a deadly virus, a plane crash, and one death by wine rack. Calling it "cheap, shiny, indefensible junk," Salon's Stephanie Zacharek described the sequel as "a Hot Wheels hot rod encased in a glossy plastic blister pack," before following that dismissal with "But come on -- you know you want it."
9. The Mechanic
Statham holstered up with Con Air director Simon West for this remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson picture about an assassin who reluctantly accepts an assignment to kill one of the top men at his organization, then ends up taking on the dead man's son (played here by Ben Foster) as an apprentice killer. Though West's version ironed out some of the original's more interesting quirks, it retained enough sharp, ruthless action to satisfy critics like the New Yorker's Bruce Diones, who wrote, "Statham is a model of control; he's steely and graceful in his action scenes, and his interplay with the wiry Foster delivers the goods."
After stealing scenes in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Statham got to make his solo action hero debut in The Transporter, a bullet-riddled thriller about Frank Martin, a guy who, well, transports things -- including illegal cargo for some pretty nasty people, no questions asked. Frank's first adventure revolves around a conspiracy to kidnap and "import" a few dozen Chinese people, and although it builds to a predictably loud and ridiculous conclusion, a number of critics still had plenty of fun getting there. As Steven Rea asked for the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It remains to be seen whether Statham can move beyond the crime-land action genre, but then again, who says he has to?"
A textbook combination of an almost perfect cast with an utterly ludicrous screenplay, David R. Ellis' Cellular stars Kim Basinger as a woman who's kidnapped by a pack of thugs (led by Statham, in a rare completely villainous role) and manages to cobble together a broken cell phone to seek rescue from a stranger (Chris Evans) who just happens to be an action hero in waiting. Boasting loads of convenient coincidences, oodles of silly twists, and plenty of action, Cellular was just a little too over-the-top for some critics -- but Roger Ebert, for one, had a blast. "This is one of the year's best thrillers," he argued. "Better than Phone Booth, for my money, and I liked that, too."
Impossibly fast, gloriously filthy, and absolutely insane, Crank handed Statham the role of a lifetime: Chev Chelios, a hitman who runs afoul of the Chinese mafia and ends up plunging into L.A.'s seedy underbelly in search of an antidote for the poison that's slowly grinding his heart to a halt. In the meantime, all he can do to stave off its effects is seek out adrenaline anywhere he can find it -- including plenty of proudly R-rated action. "Crank qualifies as a superior piece of slick, shallow-souled trash," wrote the Toronto Star's Geoff Pevere. "And I mean that in the best sense of the term."