So, it’s time to review a movie where Jason Statham plays a guy with a tortured past that gets caught up protecting an Asian girl while dodging cops and getting caught up in a larger conspiracy. That sounds oddly familiar… Luke (Jason Statham) is an ex-cop who pissed off the Russian mob. They kill his wife and promise to kill anyone he ever becomes friendly with, even in the smallest sense, so that he’s always looking over his back for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, a young Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan) is a mathematical genius and can remember any numbers she looks at. Some Chinese gangsters kill her family and take her in to use her, and one day have her memorize a series of numbers. But when a battle breaks out between the Russians and the Chinese, she escapes and bumps into Luke, who takes after protecting her… which becomes even more complicated when a group of crooked cops he used to know and pissed off get involved, as well.
First and foremost, I’m not looking for much in a Jason Statham movie outside of just pure action fun. It takes a while, but the action does eventually come in. Unfortunately, it’s almost entirely gun shootouts, which get incredibly boring after the first few. Statham does do some fist fighting a couple times, but it’s almost like the film goes out of its way to make sure he does as little as possible. He refuses to actually fight often… and even during a moment when it looks like it’s gonna be an epic battle… well, let’s just say it doesn’t turn out exactly as hoped. Though even when there are a few fistfights, everything is incredibly shaky-cam’d that it’s almost not worth it. You can see what’s going on, but it’s just annoying to watch and goes by so quickly it doesn’t matter.
Statham’s movies also aren’t exactly known for being incredibly big on the story aspect (outside of maybe his Guy Ritchie flicks). But here we have the opposite problem. This film is way too convoluted. It has so many characters, so much backstory, so many subplots, and so much actually going on–and attempts to cram all of that in–that it becomes hard to follow the actual story or know what’s happening. The film is only 90 minutes, but it takes almost 35 for any action or current story to start. That first 35 minutes is purely backstory setup… and it’s only like a quarter of the backstory the film tries to present to you throughout. His cop ties don’t even come in until halfway through or more, and everything about that plays out in random chunks. I was also upset that it spends a third of the movie setting up the subplot that anyone Statham gets close to will die… and that basically disappears from the film as soon as he meets Mei. They don’t even explore the quandary of him getting close to somebody the Russian mob needs alive, which would have been cool to see.
Similarly, there are almost no sympathetic characters. Of course Luke and Mei, but you know nothing is going to happen to either of them. Because of that, it feels like there are no stakes. And then they throw so many different bad guys at you that you’re not sure what to feel. There’s just no character development for anybody, either, despite everything the film tries to throw at you. There’s no real internal struggle, despite the whole thing at the start about Luke not being able to get close to anybody, which should be a massive internal struggle. And then the climax fight they build up to is against a character that isn’t even introduced until the third act, and it’s not even a big bad or anything. I wish they would have built up his character more, because he seemed like he would have been a fun villain.
Overall, it just turns out that it’s a pretty mediocre film. The action is sustainable for the runtime, and it has a lot of good ideas, but nothing is ever carried through… or at least carried through to its potential. There are plenty of better Jason Statham flicks out there… and if you want him with a troubled background saving an Asian girl while getting caught up in a big conspiracy and dodging cops–but with actual good action and fun characters–I’d suggest The Transporter.