Jason Statham is nothing if not a consistent man. Aside from The Bank Job, he's never done anything more than what is required of him. Even his brief cameo at the end of Fast & Furious Six was just a brief reminder that, "Hey casting directors, Jason Statham can show up, walk sternly, and talk gravely for a few minutes if that's all you need." In a world where so few things are secure, I understand why people love his films, because he has become the ultimate comfort food.
Redemption is the absurd, and logical, conclusion of this consistency. In fact, it so embraces the threadbare nature of the plots that he so often finds himself in, that the original title of Hummingbird is far more appropriate. It flits from scene to scene with little purpose other than to make sure that the next phase of Statham's fighting stance is greeted by someone that deserves to be beaten up. Then the film goes one step further by denying his devoted audience the epic thrash-down the film leads up to so it can putter off with some paranoid delusions about drones and surveillance.
This film exists in that weird grey area between lunatic genius and painful misfire. The dialogue is either howlingly terrible or knowingly campy. Statham's performance is either over-the-top melodrama locked into a battle suit, or the same ol' same ol' with a twist of pain to add a different aftertaste. Redemption is either the best movie that Statham has ever done which requires knowledge of both his career and action film history in general, or the most surreal accident in a plethora of steady performances.
I am forever the optimist, and there is one line of dialogue that absolutely clinched the great movie title for Redemption. Statham's character Joe, a run down ex-British special forces hobo, befriends another lady of the street who gets into trouble because he decided to hide his fighting powers for drunken reasons. After he throws the fight to some hoodlums he stumbles into the apartment of a rich gay socialite whose apartment Joe adopts and the now strikingly well suited Statham goes on the hunt for the man who killed his friend by becoming the enforcer of a local Chinese gang. He has one man cornered, does some quick kung-fu action, and growls, "You tell me what happened to her, or I'll kill you with this spoon."
This is not Shoot 'Em Up where the absurdity of the line is played up for maximum cartoonish effect. Statham is angrily uttering this line as if the world depended on it. All the while director and screenwriter Steven Knight surrounds him in a noir realm where shadows are frequently replaced with candy-colored lighting. I kept expecting the Statham to address the audience directly, saying, "Here's your sweet treat," but instead he just makes a few awkward passes at a nun that he has the hots for and randomly chokes or makes out with his ex-girlfriend / wife in the middle of a grocery store.
Normally, something like that would be pushing offensive, but it's already in such an absurd realm that it's impossible to divorce the events from his cinematic past. If people were upset at the way the child in danger plot of Safe was an excuse to turn kids into props, then look at the hilarious moment where Joe meets his daughter, previously mentioned in only one other scene, and literally keeps her at arms length while they awkwardly shake hands before his final battle. This is just one of a multitude of examples of the way the film references his film history without beating you over the head with it.
The world of Statham's films is for men's men and Redemption realizes that each of his movies is essentially the equal to dick measuring. So I wasn't too surprised where there's a scene that is literally filled with penises. While Joe is trying to romance a nun. I was laughing so hard at the way Statham was stumbling through the phallus filled gallery while the nun looked at him with appropriately gooey eyes.
I was surprised at how funny the various scenarios are. During one exchange the nun makes mention of Statham's sins and then he reminds her of her own recent sordid history. I was half-expecting the words, "Take that, nun!" to come flashing on the bottom of the screen. Then there's that climax or lack thereof, the superfluous kooky neighbors that appear once those increasingly absurd one-liners, and the ridiculous denouement that promises the fans that Statham will stumble into another film just as readily as he did into this one.
If there were serious aspirations involved in the creation of Redemption then that makes the result all the better. It still underlines the ridiculous nature of all of Statham's films in the most delightfully absurd package of the year. The action hobo can not die, he can only grumble in a new direction.
Screenplay written and directed by Steven Knight.
Starring Jason Statham and Agata Buzek.