Jason Statham fills the void in action heros

`Transporter 2' star pushes for realistic fight scenes

Movies

September 08, 2005|By Daniel Fienberg | Daniel Fienberg,ZAP2IT.COM

LOS ANGELES -- Indiana Jones hasn't cracked his bullwhip in more than 15 years. John McClane hasn't helped anybody die with any difficulty in 10. The Terminator is the governor of California and James Bond is a mystery man. Where are the action heroes of yesteryear?

Jason Statham is not one to shy away from the "action hero" label. "There's nothing wrong with it," he says. "It's nice. It's a funny title to wear, actually. Once you start doing stuff and doing your own stunts you are considered an action hero. It's not a label I'm trying to build. I'm trying to mix things up and do other movies, as well."

Last week, Statham stepped back into the finely pressed suits and well-tuned automobiles of Frank Martin, the mercenary-with-a-heart-of-gold star of Transporter 2.

"It's the guy who drives the fast cars, can beat up the rest of the guys and gets the girl. ..." says Statham. "You could say it's a working-class James Bond. A Bond who drinks Heineken and not Dom Perignon champagne. He's a bit less refined but still very capable."

The 2002 original was a plotless wonder of mind-blowing stunts. It made $25 million at the domestic box office. But factoring in solid worldwide returns and DVD revenue, The Transporter made a tidy sum.

In the sequel, Frank has moved from France to Miami, and rather than transporting mysterious cargo and dangerous passengers, he is moonlighting as a chauffeur, taking a small child to school every day. It does not take long, though, before Frank is battling villains by the dozens and trying to get to the bottom of a plot that deals either with a kidnapping, the drug trade and a deadly virus or with nothing at all.

In nearly every frame, it is Statham's movie.

"He is the Transporter," director Louis Laterrier says.

He continues, "I knew of him, of course. I knew of him from his previous work with Guy Ritchie. I knew he was an actor. He brought so much humanity to the character. That's what I wanted. I'm pushing him always toward humanity, toward the broken action hero. It's no Jean-Claude Van Damme. It's no Bruce Willis."

Working again with fight choreographer Corey Yuen, Statham delivers action sequences as notable for their off-the-wall ingenuity as for the fact that it certainly seems as if Statham is doing his own stunts. Whether he is breaking necks with a fire hose, bashing heads with a metal pipe or just using his fists, the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star and former competitive diver is plenty capable.

"I think the best fight scenes are always the ones that are most realistic, the ones that aren't influenced with CG and wires," he says. "The best fights you'll ever see are the stuff that Bruce Lee used to do because it's always a wider angle so you see the guy doing it. There is no room for fast cuts. A lot of movies you see now, you just see fists going and you don't know who is doing it. It could be my grandma. It's annoying, but the reason they do it is a lot of the actors can't do the fights, so they have to disguise that in some way so they use tight angles and fast cuts."

Statham will next reunite with Ritchie on Revolver, a crime drama in which he claims not to throw a punch. From there, he will exorcise his video-game demons in Uwe Boll's adaptation of Dungeon Siege. Would he be back for a Transporter 3 if this film succeeds? Writer-producer Luc Besson is "the man who controls everything," Statham says. "He created this character, so if he wants to do another one then I'm the first one in."

For film events, see Page 31.

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