It's one of those burning, 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'll willingly 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 seen it before and think it's incredibly average, I'd likely sit down and watch it again if you twisted my arm. Hell, you wouldn't even have to do that, I'd be twisting yours. There are probably 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 penned this 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 or so 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, puts a grin on your face that you simply can't hide as you watch the violence kick off and 30 bad guys die in 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 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 to a life of lucky breaks and an on-screen career that shared more synergies with the man's actual life than many would probably realise. 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 amongst his love for martial arts training.
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 cringe 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. "I've never had an acting lesson in my life. I don't know whether that's a good or bad thing."
As a jack of all trades and his own self-appointed stuntman, he's blurred 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 to have started writing this piece not admitting to myself I can't possibly untangle a two-decade-long web of British-American film culture and tertiary-level 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 has announced that 2018 will be the year of Statham, according to a few professors that have 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 will be penned by different scholars and is due to be released this year. 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.