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I’m having a hard time transforming my thoughts and feelings about director Elliott Lester’s balls-out action/thriller “Blitz” into words. On one hand, I felt that the feature was the perfect vehicle for genre hero Jason Statham, a man who excels at portraying intimidating, heavy-handed badasses. He’s good at what he does, and his turn as rogue detective Tom Brant provides the sort of testosterone-fueled excitement we’ve come to expect from the big guy. However, on the other hand, I feel that Lester and crew missed a lot of opportunities as they explored subplots that never should have made it into the final draft. I can’t immediately tell if the film is too short or too long, though I think I’m leaning towards the latter at the moment. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Based on the novel by Ken Bruen, the film chronicles the rough-and-tumble times of Detective Sergeant Tom Brant, a veteran of the streets and a force to be reckoned with. As the film opens, we find our hero engaging a rowdy group of youths who are attempting to break into a car. Instead of dispensing a little tough love and sending the hooligans on their way, Brant opts to violently beat them into submission with a very large stick. His superiors, of course, are none too pleased about his performance, especially since his unstable approach to law enforcement has caused much controversy in the past. Statham plays the character to a tee, and almost seems to relish the opportunity to play a man of questionable moral fiber who isn’t above taking the law into his own hands. The role suits him well. It’s a shame the script couldn’t properly support the premise.
As the film progresses, we learn that a serial killer (Aidan Gillen) is on the loose, a sick and depraved young man who appears to take great pleasure in murdering cops. He’s smart, methodical, and always seems to be two steps ahead of his pursuers. In order to make headway in this case, the old men in charge call upon the unorthodox skills of both Brant and Porter Nash (Paddy Considine), another decorated officer with a checkered past. Together they begin the hunt for this elusive murderer, each man bringing his own unique skill set to the proverbial table. The film jumps back and forth between their individual stories, though Statham seems to the only one who isn’t currently undergoing some sort of personal dilemma. But that’s okay.
Here’s where the film starts to run into problems. There are way too many subplots for one 90-minute feature, which leads me to the question: Is the film too long, or is it too short? Beefing up the histories and motivations driving the side characters would have been a huge help, giving us a bit of insight into why, exactly, they do the things they tend to do. For instance, we learn fairly early on that Statham’s protege Elizabeth Falls (Zawe Ashton) is a recovering addict who recently failed the sergeant’s exam. What’s the story with her addiction? Are Brant and Elizabeth romantically linked? There isn’t enough information to draw conclusions, even if you try your best to read between the lines. If they wanted to explore her story, that’s fine, but at least devote a little more time to the poor woman’s backstory. As it stands, these scenes feel like throwaway moments designed to pad out the picture’s extremely thin narrative.
In regards to action, there really isn’t much to discuss. The films opens strong, flounders a bit towards the middle, and recovers just in time to wrap everything up in a tidy, easy-to-digest package that smacks of desperation. I wish the filmmakers had focused their attention more on Brant and his quest to take down this dastardly villain than, say, touching upon the sexuality of one of its characters. Does it matter that Porter Nash is gay? Not really. I suppose it ties into his character’s rage issues, but when the film itself treats these segments as unimportant, they ultimately just get in the way of the action. Trim this sucker down to 70 minutes and you’ll have something special. After all, when you sell yourself as a nasty, mean-spirited, balls-out action flick starring Jason Statham, you’d better bring it. Big time.
Reading over that prickly review, you may think that I strongly disliked “Blitz”, but that’s simply not the case. I enjoyed every ugly little moment, though I do feel it’s pretty far from perfect. Statham fanatics are going to eat it up, as the film showcases the actor at his very best. The story, however, is pretty choppy, a problem that could easily have been solved by either trimming down the flick to a leaner, meaner length or devoting a bit more time developing the characters. Regardless of these issues, “Blitz” will be insanely easily to recommend, especially to those who have grown tired of the watered-down action flicks oozing out of Hollywood these days. The flick may be grossly imperfect, but it’s definitely one hell of a ride. Worth a rental, not a purchase.
Elliott Lester (director) / Nathan Parker (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Statham … Detective Sergeant Tom Brant
Paddy Considine … Porter Nash
Aidan Gillen … Barry Weiss
Zawe Ashton … WPC Elizabeth Falls
David Morrissey … Harold Dunphy
Richard Riddell … PC McDonald