To say that Hummingbird is off-piste Jason Statham is to do a disservice to some of the great man’s previous choices. Take a look at The Bank Job, a cracking little movie that calls for drama over action, and Statham slots comfortably into the ensemble there. That said, Hummingbird is clearly an attempt, and a generally succesful one, by The Statham to stretch himself further.
Here, he plays damaged goods in the form of Joey Jones, an ex-special forces soldier on the run. So far so routine, perhaps. But once he’s shed a particularly dodgy-looking hairpiece, it turns out that the role fits Statham particularly well. He’s a man living in the criminal underworld of London, but who finds – with the help of a nun (really) – an avenue of sorts for redemption (which turns out to be the title of the film in the US).
The film marks the directorial debut of Eastern Promises screenwriter Steven Knight, and he also penned the script for this one too. Visually, the film captures the dingy back streets of London, and the loneliness of a complicated man stuck in a hugely populated city, exceptionally well. Knight’s camera is drawn away from the surface glitz, with neon signs clashing with darkness, both tonal and literal. Furthermore, his film exposes the cruelty and simmering unpleasantness of the London streets, and the relentless crime that flourishes. A tourist information video this is not.
So what is it? Well, a jumble of things. On the one hand, it’s a dark character drama. On the other, it explores the unlikely relationship between Joey, and the aforementioned nun, played well by Agata Buzek. Then, it has further moments where it slips into a more conventional Jason Statham action movie, as the man uncorks his special skills and proceeds to be, well, really quite dangerous.
As much fun as it is to see the film flitting between two or three slightly different identities, it does dilute things somewhat by choosing to do so. It feels as if Hummingbird won’t really commit to being one or the other. The Statham, however, effortlessly slips into a quiet role by his standards, and Joey is comfortably one of his most interesting on-screen characters. We’re not sure we’d ever see him as a man called Joey in real life, though.
The film itself features even the cleanest of characters painted to some degree in shades of grey, and even though there are moments where it all feels slightly off-kilter, and edging towards daft, there’s enough clear intent to pull it through. It’s a robust, diverting piece of work, that perhaps showcases the skills of Knight more as a director than writer in this instance (although he’s no slouch in either department). As for The Statham? Hummingbird doesn’t exactly revolutionise things, but it does demonstrate that when he’s not punching someone very hard in the face, he’s still a good, strong screen presence. Even with a dodgy hairpiece on.
Hummingbird is out now in UK cinemas.
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