The top 25 finest Jason Statham films

Odd List Duncan Bowles
19 Aug 2016 - 05:54

Page 1 of 2The top 25 finest Jason Statham films

We salute the best screen work of the mighty Jason Statham...

Well, we've upgraded our list of the mighty Statham’s finest movies, though it saddens me to say that in the years since this article's first inception, we are still without a third Crank film, which the world needs now more than ever I’m sure you’ll agree. 

Thankfully last year proved to be his most successful to date, certainly from a box office perspective, as he finally returned to the big screen as an out and out villain for the first time since Cellular, in the Fast & Furious mega-franchise, with his turn in Fast 7. Likewise Spy added another string to his bow, allowing self-parody in the most glorious way. Wild Card might not have taken a lot of money, but it at least allowed Statham to release another of his more independent-minded movies and made for a fine blend of action and black comedy.

While his productivity is normally so high that he has a multitude of movies lined up in any one year (some years ago I mentioned updating this piece to the man himself due to his insane workload, he cracked up and responded, “My productivity is overwhelming! 'Have a fucking day off!'”) I think we’ll allow him 2017 to take a well-deserved break, with Mechanic: Resurrection his only film out this year.

We’ve also now accumulated quite the celebrity database covering what his peers vote for as their favourite Jason Statham film, which you can find here. And when we asked the man himself for his choice, here was his response:

"I have good memories of working with Guy Ritchie. He started me in the business, so I owe him so much, and I’ve always enjoyed the films. Those two films, Lock Stock and Snatch were just such a great thing for me. And I also like The Bank Job. The Bank Job for me, was a great opportunity for me to do some good acting, you know? Other people might dispute that fact [laughs]. It was a great story, a true story, and I got to work with some brilliant actors and I’m really proud of that film".

So with that in mind, let’s get stuck in to the world of Statham…

25. War

“All we have to do, ladies and gentlemen, is pull the fucking trigger.”

War is a surprising film in several respects, choosing to prioritise its twisting, turning plot over and above the action, which is relatively minimal for a film that stars both Statham and Jet Li. War is also so full of double crosses and betrayals, that anything less than full attention will leave you struggling to keep up, as the F.B.I find themselves stuck in the middle of a gang war between the Triads and Yakuza. I once made the mistake of watching it as part of a beer and pizza night and after several imbibes had no clue what was going on.

It’s a slick and intriguing little action thriller and a considerable way better than Chaos, which Stath had filmed several years earlier, and is notable for being yet another film in which he stars alongside Jet Li, which is no coincidence when you know that they share the same manager, Steven Chasman, who has also produced a fair few of their movies, including War, The One, Kiss Of The Dragon, The Transporter trilogy and more.

Action wise, there’s still plenty of highlights, including the thrilling sight of the two leads going head to head in spectacular fashion, poor Stath being attacked by an axe once more (which bad guys should really know is folly by now) in a bloody showdown and a decent sword fight involving Mr Li.

Strangely, War’s director, Philip G Atwell, who has a background in rap music videos and a couple of episodes of The Shield to his name, hasn’t directed anything since, which seems like a real shame after the promise shown in his first and last feature movie.

Buy now from Amazon: War

24. Transporter 3

“Nope, I am not ‘the gay’.”

Transporter 3 has, I believe, a unique honour at Den Of Geek. When the press screening took place back in November of 2008, two writers were sent and both submitted reviews. One was titled ‘Transporter 3: the We Liked It review’ and the other ‘Transporter 3: the We Didn't Like It review.’ No prizes for guessing which one mine was.

For me it’s the humour in Transporter 3 that makes it so much fun, and it’s arguably even more of an asset than the action sequences. From the opening dialogue between Frank and returning character Tarconi (played by the fantastic François Berléand) things feel sharper and more self-aware, making the film as a whole immensely entertaining. The strangest part of this Transporter is that at times it’s so very slick it actually verges on feeling like a proper film - and I don’t mean any disrespect by that, merely that in its increasing similarities to the likes of Bourne and Bond (location trotting, the casting of Jeroen Krabbé) it is actually in danger of becoming comparable, though more as a spoof than anything.

The plot, however, remains ludicrously high concept -this time Frank can’t be more than 75 feet from his car without his newly acquired bracelet blowing him sky high, leading to the kind of ingenuity stunt-wise that makes Transporter 3 a closer relation to Crank, although it can never quite match the sheer insanity of that film. Special mention should go to the scene which sees him chase down a car on a BMX, while The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog blares out, which in itself gets a big gold star from me.

Buy now from Amazon: Transporter 3

23. Gnomeo & Juliet

“Well Benny, I didn’t think it was possible but your mouth is getting even bigger than your hat!”

On my list of the several thousand questions I’d still like to ask The Statham, is whether he’s been regularly approached about doing more child friendly roles. After all, while Stallone and Schwarzenegger had managed, with mixed success, to flit between blood-soaked action and looking after children, their template seemed to become a necessary rites of passage for their muscular successors. Both Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Vin Diesel fell into family fare with The Tooth Fairy and The Pacifier, but mercifully they both came back to more grown up fare and now even share the success of the Fast & Furious franchise.

Hopefully the world will never have to witness a movie poster depicting Statham holding some form of upside down child/nappy (see: diaper) or other ‘comical’ weapon substitute, but it’s nice to have at least one film on this list that can be shown to little ‘uns as a Statham introduction (especially if you now find yourself as a new parent with more than a passing interest in his work).

He gets to play the villain of the piece and even has an animated slice of action, including a lawnmower race. But even more surreal than listening to Stath voice a garden gnome, is watching him talk to his little deer sidekick, voiced by Ozzy Osbourne. It’s a sweet, clever little movie and a fine way to get children indoctrinated in to the church of Statham, as his shouty, uncredited cameo in The Pink Panther hardly counts - even if he did get to smooch Beyoncé in it.

Buy now from Amazon: Gnomeo & Juliet

22. The One

"In this, you exist. In another you don't exist. In another, you're married to the same woman. In another, you're married to a different woman. In another, you're married to a man."

You know what's better than one Jet Li? Lots of Jet Lis. You can tell someone's had a good day, when they sit back and think, "Who on earth would be the most exciting person to get Li to fight? Aha! Himself! (Note to self: not in the Double Impact tradition.)"

In this instance, the people responsible were former X-Files, Millennium and Space: Above And Beyond scribes Glen Morgan and James Wong who also earned extra affection over the years for the writing and directing the likes of Final Destination and Willard, but who have since turned back to TV with The Event, American Horror Story, The River and this year's Rosemary’s Baby and Those Who Kill.

Don't get me wrong, The One (or Jet Li's The One, if you prefer) is exactly the kind of bonkers sci-fi trash that would sit perfectly as a double with Van Damme's Timecop, but that doesn't make it any less fun.

It also marked the first of Statham's multiple collaborations with Jet Li and the first chance he had to appear in a proper action movie, and it's no coincidence that The One's fight choreographer, Corey Yuen, went on to co-direct Mr S in The Transporter after working with him on this.

Still, if you haven't seen The One, it's an absolute blast, as Statham and the ever underappreciated Delroy Lindo run around claiming to be multiverse agents, while bad Jet Li chops his way through the other dimensional versions of himself, leading to some quite spectacular fight scenes and a good chance for Li to show both extremes of his onscreen personas.

Buy now from Amazon: The One

21. The Expendables 2

“By the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you man and knife.”

By rights the second Expendables film should rank higher on this list than the first one as, for my money, it was superior in almost every way to the original. The franchise, though, has always made for curious splits on opinions. Some loved the first, not the second, while many couldn’t get past the novelty of the original, but loved the sequel. However, the one area in which The Expendables 2 didn’t surpass part one was in screen time and character moments to Stath’s character of Lee Christmas, so as a consequence it places here.

There’s still a good deal of memorable moments for Christmas to cut a swathe through the bad guys, including the superlative and bloody opening sequence and his final fight against fellow action icon, Scott Adkins. Curiously when fellow bearded Den Of Geek writer, Matt Edwards, interviewed Mr Adkins it transpired that the fight scene wasn’t all it could be. He told us “Well, it was frustrating because we only had a day to do it. I’m there thinking ‘Surely people want to see a good fight here. Isn’t that what people want to see? Me and Statham going at it and have a good fight scene?’ But try telling that to the producers when you’re getting to the end of the schedule and people are trying to save money. But that’s filmmaking for you. That’s why they’re businessmen, not artists. It’s frustrating because they took half a day away and gave it to Djokovic hitting tennis balls around, which wasn’t even in the movie. That was very frustrating.”

The mind boggles at what might have been given a little more time, but for now we’ll have to settle for the still gratifying sight of watching what happens when you fight Stath near a helicopter blade.

Buy now from Amazon: The Expendables 2

20. Death Race

"You wanted a monster. Well, you've got one."

Now, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Not long after I started writing for Geek, I wrote an article in which I attempted to release all the anger I felt towards one Paul WS Anderson (due to not positive responses I'd had to some of his films). Those feelings haven't really dissolved, so until writing this list the first time I'd been putting off watching Death Race, because deep down I had the sickening feeling I'd like it.

I was right.

Anderson, as a director, does warrant some praise, especially from a technical point of view and for managing to make a smaller budget go a long way. I still hold that his weakness is in his writing and Death Race is another example of that. If only someone gave him a decent script, took his crayons away and firmly told him, "No! No more writing!", then he might fare better.

Death Race's plot is as predictable as you'd imagine, to the point where you could pretend to be psychic and ‘impress' your friends with how things were going to turn out. I'm also mad that Anderson chose to eradicate any reference to the original's premise of scoring points according to what type of person you hit (men, women, children, babies, old people) and instead just chose to hold a race to the death in a prison. It has more in common with The Running Man than the original Death Race.

However, as a standalone action film and ignoring any prejudice, I have to admit it was a lot of fun. The film zips along nicely, but where it excels is in the car races themselves, which are impressively long and well put together, managing to be exciting and incredibly brutal, as all kinds of chaos is unleashed on the track.

Our man makes for the perfect wronged man, on a mission to get payback, while he's ably supported by the likes of Ian McShane, Joan Allen (whose 'controversial' moment of swearing really isn't that shocking) and Mortal Kombat’s underappreciated Robin Shou.

Buy now from Amazon: Death Race

19. Transporter 2

“Have a good life. What's left of it.”

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who love the moment where Frank Martin flips a car in the air and flies it upside down in order to remove a bomb from the undercarriage on a hook, while the detonator is held by a women who’s content to wander round in see through bra, and those who think that’s a load of stupid nonsense. Which are you?

Buy Now from Amazon: Transporter 2

18. London

“C’mon you f**kin’ dirty, sh*t, c**t, whore! F**kin’ whip me!”

Oh yes. The line above was delivered by the big man while recounting his experience in an S&M parlour, and it’s a monologue filled with comedy gold. Be warned the language doesn’t get any prettier, in a film in which all the characters have potty mouths.

London appears to be the only film directed by Hunter Richards, and information about it seems a little thin on the ground. It was released the year after stars Statham, Jessica Biel and Chris Evans appeared together in Cellular (further down the list), so I assume the casting was no accident. London feels more like a play than a film, with the majority of the 90-minute runtime playing out in a bathroom at a house party.

Tonally, it’s very similar to the work of Bret Easton Ellis, with all the characters displaying their ugly character flaws, being mostly unsympathetic, rich and taking a lot of drugs, so it won’t appeal to a lot of people. Curiously, Statham’s character name is Bateman, while Biel appeared in a film adaptation of another of Ellis’ books, The Rules Of Attraction.

Evans and Statham drive the bulk of the film and do so in style, but it’s the latter who proves the most entertaining, revelling in the chance to show a rare display of emotions (just try to ignore his awful hairstyle), while spitting out the c-word with such panache, that, at times, the dialogue feels improvised. If you want to see Statham playing against type (for the majority of the film) then I’d give it a go; just be prepared for quite a lot of rambling, coked-up dialogue, which adds to the authenticity, while not always holding the attention.

Oh, and don’t watch it if you’ve just broken up with someone.

Buy now from Amazon: London

17. The Italian Job

"It's either bad traffic, peak traffic, slit-your-wrist traffic... you know, five people died from smoking in between traffic lights today."

Now, hold your horses. Before you start reading me the riot act about remakes, I should tell you that I agree, for the most part, that Hollywood really needs to stop with the incessant recycling of classic material. More importantly, it needs to stop using the names of original films, when a slight tweak would have stopped us all from screaming on the internet.

As has been stated many times over the years on Geek, the Karate Kid remake didn't even feature karate, but kung fu, yet the eternal wisdom of the Tinseltown execs must have insisted on keeping the exact same franchise name, making someone like myself steer clear, out of a love for the original. The Italian Job suffered the exact same fate, with friends of mine still refusing to watch it on principal. But, if you can push past the resentment, there's a solid crime heist movie to be found.

As with so many of Mr S's other films, he's part of a great ensemble cast which really help to lift the material, in this case mostly Seth Green, Charlize Theron and Edward Norton, plus Stath’s character name is handsome Rob and there’s no arguing the merits of that. The film won't blow you away in any kind of revelatory fashion, but the film cracks along and has some great set pieces. I'm also particularly fond of a dinner scene involving Theron and Norton, but won't say more.

Buy now from Amazon: The Italian Job

16. Wild Card

“I've been knocked down, blown up, lied to, shit on, and shot at, so nothing surprises me much anymore.” 

One of the many reasons to be grateful for Jason Statham, is that it seems to have led to Simon West’s return to directing big, explosive action movies. Their other two collaborations have made this list, but Wild Card chalked them up a trilogy and a strong one at that.

Wild Card is far from the conventional movie that seemed inevitable when the ‘remake’ was announced, as the trailer promised a certain amount of familiar action antics, with a little gambling on the side. The film that actually surfaced is more of a Dante-esque trip through one man’s addiction, that traps his in a place surrounded by colourful bad guys and the pervading sense that he’ll never escape his own personal hell. 

Episodic in nature, it tells of Nick Wild’s encounter with everyone from an always joyfully sleazy Milo Ventimiglia, to a smitten young gambler who’s constant fawning and brush offs make him the filmic equivalent of how I imagine I’d be if encountering Statham in a bar.

Buy now from Amazon: Wild Card

15. The Mechanic

“I want you to listen to me closely. I don’t care who I hurt, or who I kill, understand?”

Back when The Mechanic was released, we enthusiastically pointed out how happy we were to see Simon West back directing big screen action, as Con Air gets an awful lot of love here at Geek towers. Little did we know at the time, but it seemed to be a return also appreciated by one Sylvester Stallone, who then handed directorial duties over to West for The Expendables 2. West has always shown a flair for directing action and his work in The Mechanic is a fine example of how to make a lean, brutal movie – he’s also reteamed with Statham for a third time in the forthcoming Heat remake, recently retitled Wild Card, with a fine cast that also includes Stanley Tucci, Sofia Vergara and Milo Ventimiglia.

Roughly half of The Mechanic’s swift 90-minute run time is given over to fight scenes, shoot outs, car chases and all other kinds of mayhem and carnage – after all, why should a movie take the lazy route of having someone stabbed in the face for a second time, when they can be thrown through a window and in front of an oncoming car? The Mechanic also wins a large amount of respect for using its modest budget to show off real stunts while avoiding CGI - the downfall of many an action movie that tries to be gritty and violent.

Despite The Stath’s lessons on how to be a great assassin delivered throughout the film, there’s one life lesson to be gleaned from The Mechanic that can happily applied to everyday life and one that endless bad guys never heed: don’t fuck with Jason Statham.

Buy now from Amazon: The Mechanic

14. Crank: High Voltage (aka Crank 2)

“What's that? Fucking C@nt-a-nese?”

God I love Crank 2.

The fact that it’s so very, very obscene meant that its main strength also proved to be its undoing for some. The film almost asked too much of its audience, as it pushed the limits of taste more than any other mainstream movie I can still think of, which left people either revelling or reviled.

Blood and gore fill the screen with the same kind of gusto which is normally reserved for hardcore horror films: organs and limbs are sliced and smashed with stomach turning vigour, while Chelios and his surrounding company of miscreants turn the air bright blue. If you thought the language in Crank was bad, High Voltage is likely to be a hard movie to beat in its swear words to dialogue ratio, with Statham spitting out the c-word more times than I’ve ever heard before. It’s amazing, looking back, that I didn’t try to give it five stars in cinematic review (You did. - Ed).

There’s a twisted beauty in watching Statham tear up the screen in such spectacular fashion and I can imagine few actors that would throw themselves so wholeheartedly (no pun intended) into such an insane film, managing to convince us that he could actually connect himself to a car battery, via jump leads to his tongue and nipple and then run a couple of miles without blinking. Now where in the hell in the third one?

Buy now from Amazon: Crank 2

Page 1 of 2The top 25 finest Jason Statham films

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