On this week’s episode, I’m running down a quintet of action movies that feel like comic book movies, but without existing source material. I had a great time putting this list together and a lot of fun watching these movies. I hope you do too!
I believe my Jason Statham fandom is well documented. I first saw him in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, though I don’t specifically remember him from them. I think the first movie I really noticed him in was the first Transporter flick, which is awesome. Frankly, all three of those movies are huge jolts of awesomeness, worth every moment of viewing. After being primed for a dose of Statham after watching Ghosts Of Mars, I was excited to see Transporter 2 on FX yesterday, so excited that I decided to have myself a little Stahamathon that also included The One and Blitz, which I had never seen before.
In grand Transporter fashion, Frank (Statham) gets wrapped up in someone else’s drama, this time while driving a diplomat’s kid to school. The bad guys’ plot is actually pretty brilliant. They kidnapped the kid and injected him with a virus that needs time to incubate, but once it does can be transmitted through the air. They return the kid to his parents who breathes on his dad who is scheduled to appear at the UN or some such, meaning they’re trying to kill all those people. Or at least get them sick and then charge for the antidote.
Anyway, Statham kicks ass in all kinds of fantastic scenes, my personal favorite is the one with the guy in the boat garage. I think I like Crank and Crank 2 better because they’re just so gonzo, but the Transporter flicks showcase what’s great about Statham: his badass attitude and his no hold’s barred fighting style. Great, fun stuff. Neither of the other movies I watched yesterday topped it, but it was a good way to spend a day.
I figured The One wouldn’t be too heavy on Statham, but the fact that it pre-dated his Expendables team-up with Jet Li by a decade or so, I was definitely curious to see how they interacted. Also, I could have sworn I’d seen this movie, but there’s no way, I must have been thinking of something else. Jet Li plays a guy hopping from alternate reality to alternate reality in an attempt to kill all of his variant selves. With each death, he becomes more and more powerful and his intent is to kill them all so he can become a god. In our world, Li is actually a good guy, so, of course the two fight a lot. Statham winds up teaming up with the good Jet Li which means they only got to fight a tiny bit. But, like I said, this is Li’s movie.
I’m waffling back and forth as to whether or not to call this one silly. I mean, it’s an interesting concept, but it’s not really handled in the most serious or awesome way possible. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Time Cop, but this one has a lot more superpower-based fights which actually look surprisingly cool for a movie that’s 10 years old. Give it a whirl if you haven’t seen it and want something to just have fun with.
Oh, on one last Statham note, I think he was trying to do an American accent. He sounded like himself, but then a little different, dropping a bit of his Britishness, which is weird because he’s playing an interdimensional cop. Are we not supposed to be able to handle the fact that he might be British? Oh, 2001, you so crazy.
Ending the Stathamathon with Blitz was kind of a downer. It’s not an action movie at all, but more of a gritty crime drama in the vein of something like Mel Gibson’s Payback (such a rad movie, by the way). Statham’s the start and gets to do a little more legit acting this time around as a cop coming unhinged as a serial killer calling himself Blitz (as in Blitzkrieg) goes around murdering cops.
It’s actually a really solid movie, comparable to my memories of Guy Ritchie’s early movies (it’s been a long time since I even tried to watch Lock, Stock and Snatch again). It’s very set in the real world with Statham not playing a kind of superman who can take all kinds of punishment and come out on top. A few parts of it felt like they were thrown in there just to be shocking or dramatic, but overall, I enjoyed watching it, even if it was kind of depressing.
The worst thing about the flick–aside from no one getting a flying kick to the face–was the guy who played Blitz. I mean, he played it great, but he was such an asshole, you really wanted Statham to bust out some of those well-known moves and kick this kids face in. What winds up happening to him is pretty cathartic, but sometimes watching Statham’s more dramatic roles is like watching a re-programed Nuke at a museum. You know how dangerous it was (and still can be), so you’re kind of always waiting for it to go off. I’m also not sure how realistic some of the shit Blitz got away with was, but I can suspend my disbelief.
If I had done a little more research of actually planned this out in any way, I probably would have watched Blitz first, then The One and ended with Transporter 2. I was actually hoping that FX would play another Statham movie themselves, but instead they went into back-to-back John Cena movies and no one needs to sit through that. Still, I like knowing that the guy who can so thoroughly kick ass with his feet can also kick ass with his acting. Statham’s the real deal, you guys.
I hope you get the reference in the title of this post. If not, it’s okay, I forgive you, but you should really do yourself a favor and watch my favorite horror trilogy (soon to be a whatever-four-movies-is) of the past 10-ish years: Final Destination. Candyman says it to the girl with split personalities from Heroes and the dreamy Devon Sawa.
For those of you who haven’t see these movies, there’s a basic formula. 1. A high school student sees a highly complex, devastating and graphic accident and freaks out when events in the vision start happening. The student saves him/herself and others. 2. Even though they didn’t die with the others, the survivors start dying in really crazy ways, usually involving seemingly natural events. 3. The main character comes upon the idea that death has a plan and death, as noted above, is not one to mess with. Even with that being said, apparently there’s a formula to things which the main character tries to decipher. 4. The main character and someone of the opposite sex try to convince the surviving survivors what’s going on to varying levels of belief and success. 5. Bad things happen (a lot). 6. It ends.
I’m sure a far more detailed map could be laid out for these movies, but I don’t want to ruin too many aspects of the films. And, even though all three are very similar in structure, it doesn’t really bother me because these movies aren’t really about the characters. Yes, I do think they’re fairly well-rounded and like/dis-likeable, but the real hook for these movies are the highly complex and usually gory death scenes that are amazing if you’re a gore fan. Sometimes they do get a little mean (the strangulation in 1 and the tanning bed in 3), but overall, I’d say they’re highly enjoyable in that way that you feel kind of bad about liking. I watched 2 and 3 on the train (1 was on Netflix instant, 2 I own and 3 I got as a disc from Netflix) and found myself being briefly exasperated, laughing, saying “Oh shit” and then looking around to see if my fellow commuters were looking at me funny. The knives in the first one, falling glass in the second and weights in the third are among my favorites, but they’re really all fantastic. This series also showed me my first bus-hit and cut/slide movie moments (1 and 2 respectively).
I also have a history with these movies, well at least the first two. 1 came out in 2000 when I was still in high school and I distinctly remember watching it in a darkened living room at Steph Knisely’s house and laughing hysterically when Tony Todd (Candyman), playing the older, vague guy explaining things to a small extent (he’s even a mortician named Bludworth) said the above quote. Even though I hadn’t seen the movie since that night, it made quite an impression, which is pretty impressive considering how many horror movies I’d seen up to that point and after. The second one (2003), I think a group of my high school friends and I went to see in the theater. I remember having the same kinds of reactions in the theater that I did on the train (something I didn’t remember until I was actually on the train). I definitely got some funny looks. I would have sworn I saw 3 (2006) at some point, but I think I only watched a few of the kills.
Aside from the gore, I like how much these movies make me think. And I don’t consider these things plot holes because we’re dealing with human interpretations of supernatural events without anyone or thing coming in and explaining things absolutely. So, Bludworth may have his theories and the kids extrapolate from there, but we don’t know if they’re right (especially taking into account the ends of each movie). So, does death have some kind of plan? It would seem so. But why does it go through such complex motions to get back on schedule? Why not just stop a heart, especially considering death seems to be able to manipulate living things (birds, rats, maybe even people). So, what are death’s rules?
Also, if death has a plan and is some kind of force of nature, what is the force acting against it? See, the visions have to come from somewhere right? And we’re not just talking about the main visions in the beginning of the movies, our heroes see other signs all over the place, as if they’re being given the information to help their friends or maybe just toyed with. In 1 Sawa a fan-chopped magazine spits out the name of his friend Tod, but by the time he gets to Tod’s house, dude’s dead. So, was Sawa just not fast enough or was he being messed with (like how Michael Myers toys with his prey)? I’m going to guess there’s an opposing force to death, maybe it’s as simple as being life, I don’t know, but I like to think about this kind of stuff.
So, you really get the best of both worlds: the best kills in recent memory and a larger story that really makes you think (at least I think so, but I’m not a mack daddy above being f*ucked with). I’m really excited for The Final Destination (I appreciate the finality of a title that already includes the world “final” like “seriously, THIS is the FINAL destination”) mostly for the ability to see this bad boy in 3D. I missed out on that with My Bloody Valentine 3D, but now my local theater has 3D capabilities thanks to some kids movie! I’ll have to sneak away to see it sometime, but it’ll totally be worth it.