It’s about time for Statham to cease from doing anything that is considered too outrageous or unbelievable.
This weekend, Meg 2: The Trench dominated the global and worldwide box office, proving that audiences still love a good monster movie to close out the summer season. Jason Statham, who stars in the film, is having a successful year with other hits like Fast X and Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. He’s also set to return to The Expendables franchise later this year. While Statham is undoubtedly a popular action star, some critics feel that his recent roles have been too similar. It’s time for Statham to switch things up and return to his roots as a tough British gangster, like he did in his work with Guy Ritchie.
It’s ironic that Statham has spent the last 20 years starring in action movies, given that it’s not where he started his career. His big break came from director Ritchie, who cast him in two of his early films, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. While Ritchie’s films weren’t exactly high-brow, they helped to launch the careers of many British actors, including Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng, Stephen Graham, and Robbie Gee. Of all of them, Statham is the one who has stuck around the longest.
In those early films, Statham’s characters were marked by a genuine anger and detachment that sets them apart from the suave action heroes he tends to play now. In Snatch, for example, Statham’s character Turkish isn’t a super-spy or renowned bank robber—he’s just a small-time salesman and boxing promoter. His quips are cooler because he’s in real danger—someone could snap his spine at any moment.
There was a level of insecurity within Statham that made his early characters more interesting. Both Turkish and Bacon (from Lock, Stock) were working-class men with nothing to live for, constantly raging against an unfair economy. Even Statham’s early action roles, like The Transporter and Crank, had a hint of that desperation. But over time, those edges have been sanded off, leaving us with a series of dull action movies.
It’s intriguing to note that Statham has emerged as the most reliable action star in recent decades. While older actors like Ford, Cruise, and Reeves continue to dominate major action franchises, Statham’s contemporaries like Johnson and Hemsworth have had their fair share of successes and failures. Statham typically releases a few action films every year, with very few misses on his resume, though many of his films tend to blend together.
The problem is that Statham excels in darker, meaner roles with less emphasis on witty one-liners. His character in the Fast & Furious franchise feels like a caricature of the tough British gangsters he played earlier in his career. While Statham is great at being sarcastic during action scenes, that’s only one aspect of his cool persona. His charisma stems from his dramatic range, though his recent roles seem to rely solely on his superficial charm. It’s a shame to see him get pigeonholed as the “funny British bald guy” when he has the talent to do much more.
One problem with Statham’s action films is that they don’t showcase his stunt work. In big-budget movies like The Fate of the Furious and The Meg, the CGI-heavy stunts leave little room for Statham to display his martial arts skills in a unique way. However, in smaller gangster films like The Bank Job and Revolver, Statham’s physical abilities are more apparent since these scenes are done for real due to budget constraints. Despite this, there is still hope for Statham’s career as he has the dramatic talent to carry him beyond action films. His recent roles in Ritchie films like Wrath of Man and Operation Fortune highlight his personality better than in blockbusters. Statham may want to consider British gangster roles again since his latest movie, The Meg, was not well-received critically.