2 July 2013

HUMMINGBIRD- Review

"You can't have a sushi restaurant and then put cheese on toast on the menu, because they'd go 'Why did you do that? We came here to eat sushi.' [...] So if you've got a story about a depressed doctor whose estranged wife doesn't wanna be with him no more, and you put me in it, people aren't gonna put money on the table. Whereas if you go, 'All he does is get in the car, hit someone on the head, shoot someone in the fucking feet,' then, yep, they'll give you $20m."
- Jason Statham, speaking to The Guardian, June 2013.

When Jason Statham is the star of a movie, he is his own genre. That's why it's refreshing to see him challenging himself as an actor, little by little, in movies like Hummingbird. He plays Joey Jones, an ex-Special Forces soldier who now lives rough on the streets of London. He stumbles into sanctuary, in the form of an unoccupied penthouse apartment, and builds himself up again by acting as an enforcer for a Chinese crime empire. While the kindly Sister Cristina tries to act as his conscience, Joey exacts revenge upon those who persecuted him when he was at his lowest, in the hope of purging his demons and finding a better life.

Like action or horror, Jason Statham the genre has its own tropes, mainly established in his trilogy of Transporter films as opposed to more surreal and frenetic works, like the Crank films. The hero will obviously be played by the Stath, but he will usually wear a suit, and he can kick everyone's arses, and he'll be reluctantly burdened with some honourable mission in the midst of the criminal underworld. There's usually a girl that he has to protect, and their relationship will be platonic. In the course of starring in films like these, he's built a loyal fanbase.

The negative effect is that he's somehow, paradoxically, making a string of very similar films while also attempting to broaden his range as an actor. The occupation and life experience of a Statham character can differ between films, but the basic ingredients haven't differed that much, lately. This film reminded me that last year's Safe existed, and there's not a whole lot in Hummingbird to convince me that it won't prove just as forgettable, a year from now.

None of these more serious projects are up there with Statham's most OTT enjoyable flicks, but there's usually a twinkle in the eye. The obligatory Stath madness in this one comes in the form of Joey deciding to go out and use a spoon as a weapon, dispensing surreal but dead serious one-liners in the process, and in the unexpected love interest of a nun, played by Agata Buzek. Both actors work well to create a more tender relationship than we're used to seeing in this kind of film, mostly because if our hero gets loved-up, it's usually for wackier reasons, i.e. the need to keep his adrenaline up to stay alive.

As in Safe, a toned-down Stath is preferable to a noisy misfire, and his work has veered between both of those camps in the last couple of years. This one finds him playing his most introspective character, with screenwriter Steven Knight musing upon the depths to which someone can sink in the search for revenge and redemption. Like Knight's previous film, Dirty Pretty Things, Hummingbird's London has a effectively mucky, unglamourous underbelly in which survival can overpower morality. The only bum note comes in a scene that involves children in a particularly grisly criminal enterprise, (hinted at in the trailer) which lingers in the memory enough that Joey's apparent redemption feels empty, by the lack of resolution to that earlier, shocking scene.

Hummingbird goes to show that Jason Statham the genre is in rude health, just so long as Jason Statham the actor continues to attach himself to projects with a variety of interesting lead characters. He already has the kind of range that is beyond his action hero forebears, most of whom are languishing in straight-to-DVD hell for a reason. Steven Knight's feature directorial d├ębut might not come from his best ever script, but it has all of the brooding atmosphere of his previous works, with far more interest in compromised humanity than in a squeaky-clean view of London.

Hummingbird is now showing in cinemas nationwide. 
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If you've seen Hummingbird, why not share your comments below? There are some nice international titles for this film too, from America's Redemption, to France's Crazy Joe- other alternate title suggestions welcome!

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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