23 May 2011

BLITZ- Review

Ali Plumb wrote a blog entry last week on Empire Online, praising Jason Statham. The point that really stuck with me, from that entry, was that "he is his own genre". People know what to expect from a Jason Statham movie, and unless that movie is Gnomeo & Juliet, they're certainly going to get it. Blitz is what happens when the satisfaction of those expectations collides with an adaptation of a Ken Bruen novel.

Statham plays DS Brant, a bullish copper who treats South East London like his very own china shop. His station is currently under scrutiny from the press as a result of Brant's very public displays of police brutality towards criminals. While trying to lay low, a murderer calling himself Blitz begins a killing spree, picking off police officers methodically. Teamed with a strait-laced inspector, Brant seeks to bring Blitz to justice, through fair means or foul.

If regular readers of my reviews are wondering why the name of novelist Ken Bruen sounds so familiar. He's the guy who wrote the novel London Boulevard was based upon, and also serves as executive producer on Blitz. Nathan Parker, who wrote Moon, follows William Monahan in writing a rubbish script that happens to come from one of Bruen's novels, and that's a coincidence I shan't ignore. While I haven't read any of Bruen's work, these two recent films based on his books both have the most threadbare stories, reinforced only by the misplaced talents of the cast and crew.

Here's a Thing, that's happened in superhero movies of late. Back in the days when it was Adam West or even George Clooney playing Batman, it was all very frothy stuff. But now, we have Christian Bale as the Dark Knight. Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, Edward Norton was the Hulk, Andrew Garfield is going to be Spider-Man- all properly great actors who up the philosophical quotient of these comic book adventures and open them up as more acceptable guilty pleasures to more snobby audiences. And with the arrival of Blitz, I can't help but wonder if London Boulevard marked the start of a similar trend in low-rent British crime movies.

Not that this is unfamiliar territory for Aidan Gillen, whose character is pretty much represented as a poor man's Batman villain, alias and methodology and all. Gillen acquits himself best, having always quite easily crossed between roles in films like this and 12 Rounds, and lauded television like Queer as Folk and The Wire. His character may be written as a cod-Heath Ledger’s Joker, but his performance is much more. Given the calibre of the rest of the cast, their performances are lesser.

Paddy Considine manfully manages the marginalised role of a homosexual policeman who apparently comes to see Brant's way as the correct way- think “the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way” again. Ridiculously named "Porter Nash", it's a waste of a fine actor in a role that effectively stops developing once the film's buddy cop movie strand aborts, to make way for more gritty and violent stuff. The particular talents of the always watchable Statham are put to good use, even if it’s in a pretty unlikeable role.

The idea of the archaic cop who gets the right results isn’t exactly untested, having been refined to a high art form by Phillip Glenister’s portrayal of DCI Gene Hunt, but it’s really old hat in films by now. Plus, everyone we meet from the force seems affably corrupt in one way or another in this film, so what is there for Brant to rebel against? As a result, Brant is such a cartoon grunt that it would be out of character for him to have anything more than grudging acceptance of Nash's sexuality and ideological differences, at a point where the film intends to appear all equal opportunities for about ten seconds. Instead, it backfires, coming across with a condescending and surprised inflection that gay men are apparently just as capable as all other men. The very idea!

So this isn't the more enjoyable vehicle for Statham that I wanted to see when I finished watching The Mechanic. The visceral nature of the violence demands that we take it entirely seriously, which makes all the one-liners and trademark Statham moments quite jarring. The plot hares off all over the place, just like London Boulevard, with many abortive plotlines that pad out the running time to where it feels long at a mere 97 minutes. It feels like a too-faithful adaptation of a book in its construction, which I can't confirm because I never, ever want to read any of Bruen's stuff.

While the idea of a Dirty Harry-style series of British cop movies with Jason Statham in the lead role is quite appealing, Blitz ain’t the start of anything. In fact, it barely ends, limping to an unsatisfying conclusion after what feels like an age. The film is also one of those British crime movies that's too much of a British crime movie, as we know them. The tropes are tired, and only the frequently unfulfilled promise of the actors involved is new. It’s violent, it’s dumb and, if you like it, it's the guiltiest of pleasures- but like the other recent Ken Bruen outing, it's far too ugly a film to really enjoy.

Blitz is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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 I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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