It’s one of those perplexing questions I’ve asked myself time and time again as I’ve sat down to watch anything featuring the man of the hour: Jason Statham.
Do I finish his films and think, “Mhmm… that was kinda shit.”? Yes. Do I still enjoy it, so much so that I’m willing to watch his next jaunt as basically the same character in another mediocre medium-budget action flick? Yes – bloody oath I do.
This couldn’t be truer for the first Statham film I recall watching – Transporter 2 – and even though I’ve since seen it again thinking the exact same thing, I’d likely sit down and go another round if you twisted my arm a little. Hell, you wouldn’t even have to do that. I’d be twisting yours. There are
probably definitely a million better uses of my time, such as separating individual grains of sand into different buckets, but there you’ll find me, glued to the screen.
Over the course of my experiences with Statham, I’ve tried to pinpoint why this may be the case. I’ve since coined a term for this burning mystery (inside of about 30 seconds of – I promise – very hard thinking) the ‘Jason Statham Don Phenomenon’ (if you’ve got anything better, hit me up). And yes, I’m going to attempt to unravel this mystery in the next five minutes of semi-guideless discussion, so buckle up.
Typecasting is often perceived as a bad thing in the realm of Hollywood – the likes of Pierce Brosnan and Jennifer Anniston come to mind here – though for Jason Statham and his anti-hero façade, it has somehow become one of his many catalysts to success.
His films are all alarmingly similar. Stylised, quick-cut action flicks featuring ridiculously impossible stunts and a body count to match. As GQ astutely pointed out, his favourite word – ‘fuck’ – which for any other actor (aside from Samuel L. Jackson, perhaps) can’t possibly be a career asset. Yet it puts a grin on your face that you simply can’t hide as you watch the violence kick off with 30 bad guys die over the course of 30 seconds. All brought to their demise by Statham with something silly like a pen lid.
Perhaps, then, his slightly cocky charm and physical finesse (and fitness) lend themselves to an attitude of not giving a fuck – something that he’s been able to ride all the way to a fat net worth in the millions and Rosie Huntington Whitley hanging off his arm.
The Briton’s rocky roots were likely the ultimate agents of his humbling success story. Propelling him into a life of lucky breaks and an on-screen career, it has a surprisingy amount to do with how he got here. There aren’t many genuine rags-to-riches narratives in Hollywood these days, though if there was one worth reading, it’d be Statham’s.
Making ends meet as a local scallywag who sold knock-off watches on street corners – you can probably picture him sweet talking deals to idiot tourists in his cavalier British accent – Statham’s rough childhood saw him bouncing between odd jobs and training in martial arts.
He was, unsurprisingly, an active man from day one, sharing his passion for football equally with a love for competitive diving. The latter of which he was tapped for by the English Commonwealth Games team in 1990. Off the back of a heightened public presence, Statham found himself approached for modelling gigs by global brands such as Tommy Hilfiger. Though he has since confessed he still had to work the street corner from time to time to fill in the gaps.
After a few cringey late-90’s pop music video appearances and a French Connection runway show, Statham was snapped up by fellow countryman and Oscar-winning director Guy Ritchie. The rest, as they say, is history. But in a chat with Men’s Journal Statham admits his lack of any learned ability in the field.
As a jack of all trades and his own self-appointed stuntman, he blurs the lines between fiction and reality. It’s made him the charismatic incarnation of the ultimate British bad boy, Victoria’s Secret model and all – and audiences know exactly what they’re in for each and every time.
The Guardian once did an exposé on the man, concluding that “… you know what you’re getting with a Jason Statham film. He will beat people up. He will crash cars. He will sometimes do an unconvincing American accent.” And people absolutely froth it.
I might have been a tad naive in undertaking this piece without considering the fact that:
- I couldn’t possibly unravel a twenty-year web of British-American film culture, and
- I couldn’t possibly unravel tertiary-level mass psychology in a mere few hundred word ramble.
Do I have a definitive answer to my train of thought? Not at all, but maybe that’s why actual academics are getting involved (not on my account though, trust me).
Manchester University Press announced in 2018 that it would be the year of Statham. And by that I mean a few professors had decided to focus on the actor’s impact on media and how it came to be so profound. Despite making consistently poor films – they politely left that bit out. Comprising of 13 essays, “… the book analyses his personality across a variety of media platforms, focusing on his diversity… “ in the space, says Dr Steven Gerrard (#YNWA).
Aimed at both academic and fan audiences alike, each piece has been penned by different scholars. It’s sure to be a better investment of your time than this article. But in the meantime, if you need me, I’ll likely be watching Transporter 2. Again.