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Posts Tagged ‘nun romance’

Yes, it’s that most joyous time of the year again: a proper new Jason Statham movie is on release! Thrilling though the mid-credits teaser on Fast and Furious 6 obviously was (and I can only imagine how I would have reacted had I not known it was coming), there’s nothing that quite compares to seeing Mr Statham in a vehicle of his very own (and I’m not talking about sports cars either).

hummer

The vessel of delights this time around is Steven Knight’s Hummingbird (trading in other territories, I’m given to understand, as Redemption and Crazy Joe). The problem with Jason Statham only making two or three films a year is that one inevitably spends three or four months getting in a bit of an anticipatory lather about each one – and when the great man goes through a run of less-than-completely-sparkling releases (which, with Parker, Expendables 2, and Safe, has arguably been the case) the sense of disappointment is inevitably somewhat crushing. Well, fear not, readers: Hummingbird is an absolute belter.

The story proper opens on the streets of London with criminal low-lives preying ruthlessly on the homeless of the city. When one of them attempts to fight back, he is savagely beaten and forced to flee, losing touch with his only friend (a young homeless girl). While being pursued by his tormentors, the raggedy straggly homeless man stumbles into an empty apartment (the owner is away for a year). Hiding out there, he takes the opportunity to shower, shave, cut his hair and have a change of clothes: and lo! He transforms into the Jason Statham Character we know and love!

The Jason Statham Character is, of course, an ex-special forces soldier with a fierce code of honour, and having effectively adopted the identity of his unwitting landlord he sets about finding his friend and turning his life around. A job as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant rapidly leads to employment as a chauffeur and mob enforcer – but a grim discovery concerning the fate of his friend leads Mr Statham to set out to do a little enforcement of his own on a private basis…

Yes, I know: ex-special forces, lethal homeless man, friendship with young girl, people-trafficking, Chinese gangsters, vigilante justice, a spot of transporting – put like that Hummingbird does sound rather like the Greatest Hits of Jason Statham all shuffled together. And to some extent this is true, but since when was watching Mr Statham’s best bits such an ordeal? Also, this movie does find some new and interesting things for him to do.

The opening section of the film has a sort of minor wobble where it looks like the whole thing is going to veer off into plotless arty pretension, but it turns out this is just setting up a nicely straightforward storyline distinguished by having a couple of grown-up questions at its centre – can a person ever really change who they are? And what does it really mean to be good? But fear not: the film’s exploration of these issues takes a form which includes the requisite helpings of regular, savage, bone-crunching violence, various shootings and stabbings, the delivery of some extremely implausible threats, and some just plain bonkers bits (there’s a point at which Mr Statham turns up to a knife fight carrying a spoon). Also – and this really is a first for the Jason Statham canon – there’s a subplot in which our hero romantically interferes with a nun.

This being a Jason Statham movie, we are not in traditional romantic territory, as he initiates his suit by inviting her to a private barbeque at a London meat market in the middle of the night. ‘I think you have psychological problems,’ the nun (Agata Buzek) informs our hero, which would not ordinarily be a good sign, but here merely suggests she is paying attention. Actually, the relationship between the two is genuinely touching, and well-played on both sides – it took me totally by surprise when it happened, but also managed to be plausible (relatively speaking).

Jason Statham actually getting into a relationship with a woman in the course of a movie is a bit unusual (though not totally unheard of). Certainly at some points in Hummingbird it’s almost as if mixed signals are being sent by the film – Mr Statham pretends to be his landlord’s boyfriend, he appears surrounded by photographs of male appendages at another point, and so on. I was almost put in mind of the alleged gay subtext to Transporter 2, but then again soon enough Mr Statham is getting down to it with someone who has taken holy orders, and if that’s not definitive I don’t know what is.

Hummingbird is ultimately all about the central relationship and the effect these two characters have on each other – there is a lot of stuff about Mr Statham being out for vengeance and a sort of vigilante justice angle, but it’s secondary. The estimable film-critic Vern has suggested there are two kinds of vigilante justice movie: the first kind, where the act of being a vigilante makes the world a better place, and the second, where it just shows what a terrible state the world was in to begin with. If anything, Hummingbird is of the second variety – but only by default. This is a drama as much as a thriller, and as such it’s less formulaic than you might expect.

On the surface this looks like another dystopian opera of urban pain (as a friend of mine has defined the Statham canon’s default setting), but it has real heart and soul: it’s a film which seems to desperately want to be hopeful and give its characters the happy ending they surely deserve. If the ending is ultimately ambiguous (and I’m trying really hard here to avoid spoiling the film any more than I already have), then it doesn’t seem to be cynical about this. I had grown to care about the characters and really wanted the best for them; I found the conclusion genuinely moving.

And how often can you say that about a Jason Statham movie? Hummingbird is very nearly miraculous in the way it takes the Jason Statham Character and all the associated requirements of a Statham movie (the violence, the silliness) and inserts them seamlessly into a genuinely thoughtful and involving story with engaging characters and great performances. If the price of this is the film perhaps being a little light on the action front, that’s a price I’m more than happy to pay. This is up there with The Transporter and The Bank Job as one of the best movies Mr Statham has ever made.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published 30th November 2006:

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the film review column you can safely ignore. When I came out to Japan, I was assured that the time difference was only eight or nine hours — and this is mostly true. However, cinematically speaking it’s a different matter. Compared to the United Kingdom, Japan is usually a little bit behind — although this can stretch to anything up to a year. On the other hand, sometimes we’re ahead.

Reaching the Pacific several months after its UK release is Michael Caton-Jones’ Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction (Japanese title: Smile of Ice 2), an ‘honestly, you shouldn’t have bothered’ sequel to the notorious 1992 original. As Sharon Stone apparently negotiated herself a very juicy deal where she got paid a huge wodge of cash whether the movie got made or not, one can perhaps view the finished product as an exercise in amortising expenses rather than a proper movie. As a proper movie, it isn’t very good.

Rumpy-obsessed author and maybe-psycho serial killer Catherine Tramell (Stone) pitches up in London and finds herself banged up (not a new experience for her) on suspicion of killing a famous soccer player (Stan Collymore — no, really). Shabbily relentless cop Roy Washburn (David Thewlis) retains brilliant psychoanalyst Michael Glass (David Morrissey) to assess her mental state with a view to stopping her bail, which he does. For various reasons her bail comes through anyway, and before long Glass finds himself the unwilling subject of Trammell’s attentions…

Well, I haven’t really seen the original movie and this sequel doesn’t really make me want to. When the list of great spectator pastimes is written, watching people getting up to it will be somewhere near the bottom, just above watching people talk about getting up to it, and Basic Instinct 2 contains lengthy sequences of both. These are dull or embarrassing rather than actually erotic.

Somewhat more interesting is the thriller plotline, wherein Glass finds himself in the frame (this may even be a deliberate pun on the part of the screenwriters, which suggests they should reassess their priorities) for various murders of people from his past. This is actually quite engaging, although the script doesn’t offer an alternative suspect to Trammell until rather late in the day. This plotline thankfully features a lot less of Stone, who gives an atrocious performance throughout, and rather more of Morrissey and Thewlis, both of whom battle heroically with the rather thin material they’re given.

The London setting and British cast give this movie a certain novelty value, mostly based on the ‘ooh, it’s whatsisface off thingummy’ factor?But it’s not nearly as clever or interesting as it thinks it is and at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, the film’s morality is deeply unsound. Are we supposed to empathise with or root for a character who is straightforwardly presented as a manipulative, amoral psychotic? That seems to be the intention, but a dodgy script and Stone’s performance make that almost as unlikely as most of the rest of the events in the movie. It’s just about watchable when Stone’s not on screen, but never quite tops the unintentionally hilarious opening sequence.

Arriving from the UK late-summer timezone is Jared Hess’ Nacho Libre, another star vehicle, this time for Jack Black. Really loosely based on fact, this is the tale of a Mexican friar who moonlights as a masked wrestling star.

Regular readers will know I like to include a mini-synopsis for every movie; well, that was it. Okay there’s a bit more to it, involving Black acquiring a very thin tag partner, having rather unmonastic feelings about a nun (Ana de la Reguera, appropriately hot yet pure-looking) and… oh, you get the idea. But not a lot more.

It bowls along fairly amicably, powered by Jack Black doing all his usual schtick: silly voices, singing, falling over for comic effect, and there are quite a few laughs. But not as many as you might think, and for a rather peculiar reason — this movie is not formulaic enough.

You can’t fault Jared Hess for wanting to avoid the clichés which usually beset this kind of tale (underdogs rise to sporting greatness), but without them the story seems disjointed and episodic. This is a very mainstream, knockabout comedy, or it should be, but Hess strives for an atmospheric quirkiness that seems rather out of place.

Jack Black is good value and I did enjoy the movie, but it’s not a comedy classic. It seemed to deeply confuse all the Japanese people at the showing I went to, but that’s probably not a good thing.

From early autumn UK time arrives Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (Japanese title: Tomorrow World 2027). This movie is supposedly based on PD James’ rather literary SF novel of the same name — but friends, I’ve read that book, and other than a couple of events and a few characters, the movie has only the loosest resemblance to the original story.

Clive Owen plays Theo, a London office worker in the near future. Life in 2027 is rather grim, partly due to draconian laws intended to keep the illegal immigrant situation under control and the activities of terrorists intent on overturning these laws, but mainly because everyone in the world has been entirely infertile since about 2009. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Theo’s ex Julian (Julianne Moore) turns up, needing his help: Theo has high-up contacts which he can use to get transit papers for a refugee girl (Claire-Hope Ashitey), who Julian and her (ahem) activist pals desperately need to get out of the country. Or so it initially appears…

The James book was written at least 15 years ago and is, as I said, rather literary. Cuaron’s version is relentlessly gloomy, frequently kinetic and concludes with an enormous gun battle featuring a couple of tanks. To say that there is a bit of political commentary in this movie is understating things — there are explicit parallels with Iraq and Abu Ghraib, not to mention some domestic British issues.

If you don’t mind that kind of thing you may well enjoy the movie. Cuaron creates a convincingly dismal and dismally plausible dystopia, with just enough of today in it, although Owen’s London Olympics sweatshirt may be a gag too far. His direction favours lots of flashy very long takes, but this doesn’t get in the way of the story, which is thoroughly well-acted by people like Pam Ferris, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, and Sir Michael Caine. If the ending is a bit inconclusive, well, so’s the one in the book. This is a good and thought-provoking movie, even if it is a bit crashingly unsubtle in places.

Arriving from the near future (late December, to be precise) comes the war movie Flags Of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood (so it’s a thoughtful sort of war movie). When I say this movie is concerned with the battle of Iwo Jima, a bloody clash near the end of the Pacific War, you will understand why I suspect it hasn’t done very well over here, well-made though it undoubtedly is. The Japanese are not actually demonised as such, but it remains unavoidably the case that a major plot point concerns them horribly killing a likeable character played by Jamie Bell. I was uncomfortably aware I was the only European in the theatre when I saw this movie — I nearly shouted ‘now you know how it feels when we watch Mel Gibson movies in England!’ but I thought better of it.

Anyway, the movie goes back and forth between the battle (lavishly recreated) — specifically the famous raising of the American flag atop the island — and the fates of the flag raisers when they are flown home to participate in a drive to raise money for the war effort.

This is a rather slow and worthy movie, but hey — it could have been another drum-beating embarassment like Pearl Harbor, so let’s not complain. The cast features a mixture of established young stars like Ryan Phillipe and Paul Hunter and relative unknowns like Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach (who’s particularly good), together with older performers like Robert Patrick and Neal McDonough. Without being too specific, the movie makes various wise points about the difference between the myths and realities of war and the effect this can have on the participants when they return home. I suspect you actually have to be American to fully get this film, in the same way you have to be Catholic to really get The Exorcist, but I found it to be thoroughly engrossing and as well-made as one would expect from a Clint Eastwood project. I predict nominations and maybe even the odd actual Oscar.

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