Posts Tagged ‘Elliot Lester’

Courtesy of a minor coincidence, two action movies set in modern London have got a release in consecutive weekends – but while Attack the Block perturbed some critics (including your correspondent) with its ambivalence towards young criminals, Elliot Lester’s Blitz takes a slightly more straightforward approach: three of them get a damn good hiding with a hockey stick before the opening credits even roll.

Then again, this is no more than one would expect from a movie which is essentially a vehicle for the underappreciated British action star Jason Statham, who wields the sporting implement in question. In this outing Statham gives us his portrayal of wild-man South London copper Brant, who in real life would be a figure of urban nightmare: a brutal, uncontrollable thug, only partially redeemed by the fact his heart seems to be in roughly the right place. He prefers beating up juvenile offenders to arresting them. He conducts his interviews down the local boozer. He bullies the service psychiatrist into certifying him fit for duty, even when he is self-evidently a violent sociopath. (It says something for Statham’s considerable charisma that Brant – just! – remains a likable anti-hero for most of the movie.)

However, Brant is in for a shock as a previous recipient of one of his exercises in community policing has emerged from hospital with something of a chip on his shoulder, and sets out on a cop-killing spree. Shocked by the deaths of their own, the top brass of the police install thoughtful by-the-book-ish detective – implausible name alert! – Porter Nash (Paddy Considine) to handle the case and stop the murderer, who’s taken to calling himself ‘the Blitz’, and to this end Brant and Nash forge an uneasy alliance…

Well, if you’re anything like me, the news that Jason Statham and Paddy Considine are in the same film will have provoked bemusement and confusion – I was sitting there during the trailer for Blitz thinking ‘Statham? Considine? Together?!?? Isn’t there a law against things like that…?’ Still, the pairing promised something a bit different from the usual fare either of them turn up in, and the presence elsewhere in the cast of people like David Morrissey and Aiden Gillen suggested this could be an intelligent and gripping movie.

Sadly, I must warn you not to be fooled, as this is very much a Jason Statham movie – and a particularly savage one at that – in which Considine and the others occasionally make an appearance. Normally, I am an enormous fan of Jason Statham’s body of work, whether it be when he’s in steely martial-artist mode in the Transporter franchise, or doing his berserk psycho turn in the Cranks, but Blitz is not, to be perfectly honest, one of his better outings.

It’s a much darker and more realistic movie than most, with considerably less action: it’s over an hour into the movie before Statham gets to chase anyone around, he never takes his shirt off, and he doesn’t end up fighting a dozen people simultaneously in a garage either. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, as it does focus your attention on Jason Statham’s performance – which, as usual, is perfectly fit-for-purpose – but it does mean the film has to rely on things like script and direction in order to succeed.

This is really where Blitz’s problems lie. The ‘rogue cop vs psycho killer’ plot inevitably recalls Dirty Harry, but Blitz isn’t remotely in the same class. Much of the dialogue is very perfunctory and clichéd, and the story itself is flabby, with a lengthy subplot about a female copper (Zawe Ashton) with a drug problem. Ashton’s performance is great, but it has virtually nothing to do with the main plot and drains tension from it as a result. Sensational details are dropped in, purely for effect (Considine’s character is gay, but other than allowing Statham to crack some bracingly non-PC jokes this has no bearing on anything that happens). Worst of all, the story is riddled with improbable coincidences and glaring holes – there were numerous moments where I found myself thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, why don’t they just…?’ The film didn’t do enough to earn the right to make those sorts of demands on my credibility.

And, in the end, the climax – such as it is – is unsatisfying on all sorts of levels. Earlier on, two main characters have a conversation which appears to reveal which way the story is going to go. It doesn’t go this way. It goes exactly the way the conversation indicated it wouldn’t, and this is supposed to constitute a clever narrative twist. The film-makers may call this playing with expectations, but I call it cheating.

In retrospect, the substance of the final scenes – obviously the need to avoid spoilers prevents me from going into too much detail – is very much in keeping with the whole tone of the movie, but they still left me feeling somewhat uneasy. Blitz sets out to depict a world with a bleak and ambiguous morality – and a horribly grimy world it is too – but the climax seems to show Statham and Considine yielding to this, and accepting that they can’t hope to impose anything better upon it. We could probably argue at length about whether or not this is realistic, but I don’t go to the cinema to see that kind of defeatist realism, I’m afraid, and as a result the whole film left a bad taste in my mouth.

Blitz is a fairly competent film with some significant talent involved, and an attempt at exactly the kind of commercial entertainment that should be the lifeblood of any domestic movie industry, and I would really have liked it to be a commercial and creative success (quite why it’s been released when Norse thunder-gods and OTT pirates are hoovering up the bulk of audiences is a mystery – I suspect a real-life cop-killing spree in the UK may have forced a delay in the release date). But, performances aside, it’s just not quite good enough in any department to really be anything memorable.

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