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It’s not hard to spot a “Jason Statham movie”. Suit and tie? Check. Wicked fighting skills? Double check. Awesome backstory? Triple check. Steven Knight’s directorial debut, “Redemption” (aka “Hummingbird”) has all those three things, though you might not realize this is a Jason Statham movie until the Stath finally beats up some punks, which doesn’t happen until nearly 30 minutes into the film. Even then, you will be hardpressed to call “Redemption” a “Jason Statham movie”, as it never really progresses the way you expect it to, much less climax the way you were probably predicting (or hoping for).
Being unpredictable is “Redemption’s” biggest asset. The film is filled with pathos and glitzy, gritty London nighttime scenery, picking up with a traumatized, on-the-run former Special Forces guy (awesome backstory!) Joey Jones living on the streets with his buddy Isabel (Victoria Bewick), when they’re accosted by local toughs. The two get separated, and Joey ends up literally falling into a luxury apartment whose owner is out of town on a business trip. A really, really long business trip, as it turns out. This allows Joey to get his shit together, quit drinking, suit up (suit and tie!), and try to make amends for past mistakes. He also befriends a nun named Sister Cristina (Agata Buzek), who serves food to the poor and dreams of seeing a ballet performed by her childhood hero.
It isn’t until almost 30 minutes later that Joey even puts a beat-down on a handful of troublemakers (wicked fighting skills!), earning the attention of a Chinese gangster who offers him a job. Joey goes for it — after all, it’s not like he has a lot to lose, and the money is really good. All he has to do is beat people up and drive getaway cars, two things he’s apparently very good at. Oh yeah, he longs to see his estranged daughter, so there’s that bit of side plot, too. But soon, his homeless buddy Isabel re-enters his life, setting off a chain of events that threatens to torpedo the stable (or, well, stable-ish) life Joey has rebuilt for himself. But this is Jason Statham, and you know he’s going to do the right thing. Eventually.
“Redemption” is definitely not something you would normally associate with Statham, and casting him had to have been a double edged sword for Knight, here making his directorial debut after penning critically acclaimed films like “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things”. On the one hand you get, well, Jason Statham as the lead in your movie, which guarantees more eyeballs than if you had gotten someone not named Jason Statham. On the other hand, it’s Jason Statham, star of “The Transporter”, “Crank”, and “The Expendables” franchises. The guy is known for a certain type of movie, and trailers for the film certainly try to sell that angle. The film itself, on the other hand, is quite different, and may disappoint some people while enlightening others.
The single best thing you can say about “Redemption” is that it never really goes the way you expect it to. Knight, who also wrote the script, will probably not get enough credit for doing something different with the very tried and true gangster formula, but the film really is quite brave in its attempts to separate itself from the herd. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s more successful than any gangster films with similar breeding you’ve seen countless times before. The point is, “Redemption” is different. Frankly, I would have liked it to be a little more predictable, even generic, since that would equal more action. There is action, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the kind of wild free-for-all you usually associate with a “Jason Statham movie”. So, be warned, Jason Statham fans!
If you can get over “Redemption” not being your usual brand of Statham mayhem, then the film has quite a lot to offer. Statham does his best acting job in a long while, and choosing the role was a very cunning move on his part. His Joey Jones is at once familiar and wildly different, and Statham embraces it. The rest of the cast is hit and miss, including his stilted romance with Agata Buzek as a troubled nun. The film doesn’t really put the Chinese mob to very good use in terms of upping the action quotient. They hire Joey and then, well, he works for them. And that’s about it for their involvement in his life. So yeah, no wild kung fu fights here, either. The film’s main audience will probably be fans of Statham who have always wanted to see him try something more challenging, but didn’t necessarily need for him to completely ditch the persona he’s brilliantly crafted into a fine career over the years. For the rest of you, your mileage may vary.
Steven Knight (director) / Steven Knight (screenplay)
CAST: ason Statham … Joey Jones
Vicky McClure … Dawn
Siobhan Hewlett … Tracey
Agata Buzek … Cristina
Benedict Wong … Mr. Choy
Victoria Bewick … Isabel