Despite the remarkable physical resemblance between the two, it seems unlikely Jason Statham will ever win an Oscar. Yet over the course of more than 20 years, the action man with the imposing bald bonce and Desperate Dan chin has become one of the UK’s most popular cinema exports.
Put it down to his work ethic: as well as headlining a reliable stream of exciting and cost-effective beat-’em-ups, Statham has managed to stand out in stuffed blockbuster ensembles like The Expendables and Fast and Furious franchises. It has been a masterclass in crafting an enduring screen image.
Audiences do not check out the new Stath movie to witness a chameleonic performance where the gravelly voiced bruiser disappears into a role. They go to enjoy badass variations on a reassuringly familiar theme. He’s the Cary Grant who could kick your head off.
The latest Statham vehicle, Wrath of Man, cleverly toys with these hard-earned expectations. This mean and moody remake of a 2004 French crime flick originally titled Le Convoyeur (Cash Truck) is centred around a slightly shabby LA armoured car company.
After a surprisingly Bond-like credits sequence, Statham’s taciturn Hill is introduced going through a job interview. Via a convincingly stressed manager (Eddie Marsan), we learn that a recent violent heist has created vacancies for Fortico truck guards; Hill promptly gets hired after barely scraping through some rudimentary driving and shooting tests.
In a retrograde locker room full of paunchy Fortico lifers and boastful but dim youngsters, Hill – soon rechristened “H” by his likeable training buddy Bullet (Holt McCallany) – keeps his head down but still seems to vibrate with a coiled energy. Is he a single-minded cop in deep cover? A former gang enforcer laying low in witness protection? Maybe a clinical master thief casing the joint? In other words, we are waiting to see H shrug off this straitjacket of passivity. When will we see the real Statham?