I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Redemption (aka Hummingbird)

tn_redemptionREDEMPTION, huh? ‘Bout time somebody made a movie about redemption.

Okay, this might tie WAR for “most generic Jason Statham title” (except in the UK, where it has the more-distinctive-for-a-Jason-Statham-movie title HUMMINGBIRD), but the movie itself is something else. Written and directed by Steven Knight (the guy that wrote EASTERN PROMISES), it’s in the BLITZ category of serious-minded British crime dramas where Statham gets to beat the shit out of a couple people without it really being an action movie. They hired him more for acting than action on this one.

Stath plays Joey, a.k.a. Crazy Joe, a homeless crackhead who was an elite commando in Afghanistan until he lost it, committed war crimes and went AWOL. You think that’s different from most Statham characters, wait ’til you see his long hair!

Fair warning: part of what I enjoyed in this movie is not knowing at all where it was going. Not like there’s plot twists or anything, it just is surprising what he does and where the movie puts its emphasis. I guess alot of people wouldn’t like it anyway, maybe they should know what they’re getting into.

mp_redemptionOne day Crazy Joey is on the run from some organized crime guys that harass the people living in boxes in this one alley, and he finds sanctuary in a fancy apartment where nobody happens to be home. He ends up figuring out that the owner is gone for the summer, also he finds a new debit card and PIN number in the mail. So, hey, treat yourself. He decides to live here for the summer. Cornered by neighbors, and having noticed homoerotic art on the walls, he tells everybody that he’s the home owner’s boyfriend.

There might be some self-reflexiveness in there somewhere. There’s that whole thing in the TRANSPORTER movies where you can read him as being gay, and now here’s Statham playing a straight guy playing a gay guy. And it’s a modern idea of a gay guy. The owner of the apartment is a wealthy artist, apparently liked by his neighbors and the art community. Neither the artist himself or Joey’s portrayal of his fictional boyfriend are effeminate drama queens or any other kind of minstrely stereotypes like you would have in, say, a movie by the CRANK guys. He just acts polite, that’s how he acts gay.

So he’s got this nice crib and seemingly endless pool of money, but he still wants to work for a living. He has a job in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant, but everybody there knows what a badass he is so they get him to come out when a bunch of soccer hooligans gotta be 86d for being too hooliganistic. This ends up getting him discovered for a high paying job as an enforcer and dirty worker for the Chinese crime family that owns the place.

As he rises from long-haired junkie bum to high living Transporter, Crazy Joey also has this idea of wanting to be “a good man.” He focuses most of these efforts on sister Cristina (Agata Buzek), a nun he knows from a soup kitchen. He gives her money, delivers her 45 full restaurant meals, personally cooks her dinner on the street, whatever he can do to feel good about himself.

Buzek is far from the typical female lead. On her IMDb page she looks like some twiggy fashion model, but in the movie she really looks like she could be a nun – not bad looking, but birdy and unglamorous, even when wearing the fancy red dress he buys her. The movie hooked me early on when it took an odd detour from Joey to deal with Sister Cristina bringing the money he gave her to the Mother Superior (Ger Ryan) and struggling with the ethics of accepting it. She’s more uptight about it than her boss is. But later we get to know her better and she is very flawed and human and relatable.

This isn’t a high concept type of story, like “he has to find out who framed him for murder so he can defuse the bomb in time” or whatever, but there ends up being a goal (find out who killed his homeless girlfriend Isabel and go after him) and alot of ticking clocks. There’s the date when the real owner of the apartment who is not actually his boyfriend comes back. This is also the date of a ballet that Sister Cristina has tickets for and wants Joey to go to, so you know that’s gonna be important. Also the police are closing in on AWOL mafia troublemaker Joey. And also Sister Cristina is planning to get transferred to Africa to get away from all this. Nothing personal. It’s not you, Crazy Joe, it’s me.

still_redemptionI’m sure some people will say this isn’t what they want from a Jason Statham picture. It takes longer than expected to turn into a story about a guy going to revenge the shit out of another guy. But to me that’s why it’s cool. It’s a surprise to see this type of relationship he has with the nun, and for that to be a bigger part of the movie than breaking people’s wrists. In some ways this Joey is more fucked up than previous Statham characters, yet he seems genuinely sweet the way he looks at her, and he even smiles sometimes. He’s revealing his soft side to her, against her wishes, but we also see him threatening innocent, hard working families over protection money. He even helps out with some human trafficking (“the job nobody wants” even within the crime organization), without showing any signs of guilt. So he’s complicated.

It makes sense that this is from the EASTERN PROMISES guy. It’s a quiet, character-driven crime drama, it has an immigrant crime family working out of a restaurant in London, a good man deep in the crime world getting to know an innocent woman. In a way it’s lighter – some of their crimes they’re able to run away laughing like kids. On the other hand this Crazy Joe is darker than Viggo Mortensen’s Nikolai, more fucked up and convinced he’s doomed.

If Statham keeps doing movies like this every once it’ll be easy to forgive him for the mediocre ones.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 at 12:31 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

39 Responses to “Redemption (aka Hummingbird)”

  1. These days it’s easy to forget that Statham started out as a verbal actor for Guy Ritchie. I think movies like this proves that he will be around even when he’s too old to kick people in the head.

  2. After the dreadful “Parker”, it’s a shame more people didn’t see “Redemption”. A great British neo-noir, in my opinion, up there with some of Neil Jordan’s work and quite possibly the Stath’s best movie.

  3. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 6th, 2013 at 2:49 am

    I enjoyed this one a lot, especially because all the typical things I was expecting from a story like this (the home owner coming back earlier than planned, the crime family he’s working for turning against him) didn’t happen and it kept going in different directions.

  4. Shawn, I don’t agree with you that PARKER was dreadful, but you’re absolutely right about the Jordan comparison. It’s easy to imagine this story taking place in the same world as his MONA LISA.

  5. Speaking of redundant redemption titles, anyone seen the the teaser for THE RAID 2. Love it!

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 6th, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the heads-up, Shoot, I’ve been waiting for that. Looking fine indeed!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDw3n2w9ty8

  7. PARKER needed 100% less Jennifer Lopez. Other than that I enjoyed it as a Statham vehicle.

  8. I spoke befpre, I think on the “Safe” talkbacks, about how much gay content and characters feature in his movies in a positive light. If the first (out) gay action hero is a while a way yet, my money’s on Statham to play him.

  9. This movie was a surprise because I was expecting more action and less drama, but I liked the complexity of it and thought it was Statham’s best work. I’m not sure I could watch it over and over, though.

    I was actually thinking about this movie yesterday when I was talking about Cormac McCarthy being bleak. I really liked this movie and was trying to figure out why I enjoyed this when it was kind of a bummer. I think it’s because he’s trying to find redemption and do something better for himself. *SPOILERS* The fact that he turns out to discover he thinks he’s actually a better man when he’s blitzed and marginalized was a really interesting turn and even though I am all for happy endings, I can appreciate the variance for a story to end like that. Plus, it totally falls in line with his attempt to be a better man – he thinks this is better for everyone else if he’s no longer a danger to them. Sad but kinda noble.

  10. Does anyone else read Mike Mignola’s BALTIMORE comic? Statham should absolutely play Lord Baltimore.

  11. I DIDN’T think this was Statham’s best work – it’s far from either “Lock, Stock” or “The Bank Job” – but it was surprisingly good nonetheless. I wrote it up properly in the forums I believe.

    This might have the first ever bearable “religious moral sidekick” character that I’ve come across in any movie. So it’s got that going for it. I actually really liked the character of the nun, which shocked me as much as it would shock anybody who’s heard my views on Yoda, Shepherd Book, That Guy from “The Tournament” Played By Robert Carlyle, etc.

  12. I like that HUMMINGBIRD doesn’t go out of it’s way to mask that it’s filmed in London, like some recent English thrillers. But instead make use of the more famous spots in the city. I’ve eaten at the chinese restaurant where Joe Works, I’ve sat on the same pavement, I’ve walked through the same alley etc. It’s no biggie, but it feels more real because of it.

  13. PARKER had all sorts of problems, first and foremost that Statham’s vibe was all wrong for the Richard Stark character, with lousy direction and a lackluster supporting cast delivering the killing blow. Having read the Ken Bruen novels, I couldn’t get into BLITZ because I pictured somebody like Brendan Gleeson as the Tom Brant from the novels; again, wrong vibe for Statham, although that might not have been a hurdle for anyone who hadn’t read the novels. That said, I’ll give Stath credit for trying on different roles: if he wants to essay a literary character again, I could see him as a pretty good Travis McGee or Matt Helm (the tough guy from the paperbacks, not the Dean Martin travesty).

  14. He’s way too intense for Travis McGee. (McGee does not scowl. He lets you scowl and philosophizes about what inadequacies made you try so hard to act so tough when we’re all just trying to get through this life with a little dignity.) Not to mention short and bald and British. But it’s not really his fault. McGee was a product of his time, a knight errant for the sexual revolution. His impending obsolescence was a major theme already in the 60s. By now, that ship has long sailed, sunk, been absorbed by a coral reef, and had a TV movie made about it. McGee has no place in the modern day. No man these days has the right mix of sensitive and patronizing that comes from watching the birth pains of feminism happen right before your very eyes. You want Travis McGee, you invent a time machine and get young Nick Nolte. Otherwise don’t bother.

  15. If diCaprio bails on THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE and Luc Besson picks it up as sloppy seconds with Statham as McGee, Seth Rogen as Meyer, and minus the ’60s take on women, or said take delivered by Statham with a wink, don’t say I didn’t warn you. But I agree on your final point, Mr. Majestyk, Nick Nolte circa THE DEEP would have been perfect casting.

  16. You guys really should stop reading books…

  17. pegsman – There is some truth in what you say, I have to admit.

  18. But books are like movies that nobody’s fucked up yet!

  19. I don´t mind, in fact I prefer if the movie adaptation fucks up a novel. It´s not the holy scriptures or anything, What is the point of making an adaptation if it is just the same. I heard a lot of complaints from Jack Reacher fans that they can´t keep reading the books after the Tom Cruise-film. They just see Cruise in front of them when reading. I don´t know what that is about. I can clearly separate the movie version from the books. I mean can some christians never go back to The Bible after seeing LIFE OF BRIAN?

  20. Mr Majestyk, of course you can read books. But it should be against the law to mention them in a movie review.

  21. The problem with miscasting in movies based on detective novels is that the main character is usually the whole show. If you don’t get him right, there’s no point. Mystery plots are almost all perfunctory, and since an author’s prose can’t be translated to the screen except for the odd line of dialogue, the only thing that really distinguishes the movie as an adaptation of the book is the hero himself. So when you cast somebody who has a completely different vibe, you might as well just make your own damn movie from scratch and leave the book be. I like JACK REACHER on its own terms, but except for a certain sociopathic self-sufficiency, Cruise could not be less like the title character, whom I’d still like to see brought to the screen in his original form. (Matt Schulze remains my pick.)

  22. You’re probably right, Majestyk. But since Lee Child likes Cruise we’re back to square one again. Movies or books.

  23. Lee Child likes money, and I’d wager that even a tarnished box office draw like Cruise is going to pull in more of that than a relative nobody like Schulze.

  24. That’s crazy. I can’t imagine a movie characterization affecting me so much that I could no longer read the books. They’re two different things! Of course they have some influence on each other, but I just can’t believe that it would make it impossible for me to continue reading a series of books that have spanned several years and many books. I think those people must not understand how books work.

    I’m sure Lee Child will emerge from his giant pile of money to make a comment on Tom Cruise continuing to play Reacher. To bastardize a John Stewart quote about Dan Brown when the entire DAVINCI CODE bru-ha-ha was going on.

  25. As some of the franchises with a handful of different actors – Bond, Ryan, Hamiliton, Parker – have showed us, it doesn’t matter much if the actor look like the character in the books. It’s all about the movie. Author Jan Guillou actually went out against Stellan Skarsgård when they were making the first Hamilton movie fearing that his readers wouldn’t accept the rather skinny actor as the fit agent. But people loved both him and the movie. And 5 actors on the series is still running.

  26. Really liked this movie as a more dramatic Statham vehicle. I thought the nun character may have been heading into cliché territory(SPOILER) until she talked about the childhood abuse from her gym instructor, and then they show her as a 10 year old girl cutting his throat in self-defence. Or possibly payback. Throat cutting must be an important motif for the director Steven Knight, who wrote EASTERN PROMISES.

  27. Watching this right now. I like it.

  28. I know that a lot of you guys don’t really care about what’s happening in Europe – no one here gave a shit about Rik Mayall dying, that’s for sure – so this is perhaps not of interest to anyone. But Dennis Gansel is directing MECHANIC 2!

  29. The Original... Paul

    June 28th, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Pegsman – I was going to ask Lee Child about Cruise myself at the festival, but somebody in the audience beat me to it. From memory… He mentioned that almost all actors are short, so finding a tall guy to play Reacher would’ve been difficult at the best of times. He was happy that ANYBODY was playing Reacher on screen, and had no problems that it was Cruise. Which is understandable. I believe he also mentioned the action scene outside the bar where Cruise takes down several guys, and an ad-lib that Cruise made that (unfortunately) got cut out of the finished movie. I can’t remember what it was but it was something like “What, they only sent four of you?” Quite fascinating stuff actually.

  30. Paul, the height arguement isn’t very good, is it? I think Cruise is fine in the movie, but he’s only 5′ 7”. There are literally thousands of actors taller than him. But I suspect they don’t pay as well.

  31. The Original... Paul

    June 29th, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Pegsman – I don’t know. I’ve tried to think of a famous tall actor who’s not a wrestler or something, and I can’t come up with any.

    But my problem with Cruise in the role was never his height, rather that he gave off this whole “urban cowboy” vibe. He just didn’t look like a drifter, with the designer stubble, the jacket and everything else. More than that, though, the role called for him to play “intimidating”, which is one of the things that Cruise absolutely cannot do. There are lines in the script – for example, when the motel owner is asked if there’s a guy who could break a girl’s neck with his hands, she points out Reacher’s bedroom to the cop and says something like “You’ll understand when you see him” – that make absolutely no sense in the movie because they specifically reference how intimidating Jack Reacher is, but he never appears that way to the audience.

    But honestly this was a minor problem in the movie for me. If Cruise had been the weakest link I would’ve been far less frustrated with the movie, but the casting of Rosamund Pike as the main character could’ve killed it. The rest of the movie had so many really good parts that even she couldn’t have made me dislike it, but once again I’m left thinking that she only gets any roles at all because of her family connections. To be fair to her (and let’s face it, I’ve given her a right kicking for about three or four of her roles now) I thought that she had really good comedic timing in “The World’s End”. Which makes me think that comedy’s really what she should be doing, not this!

  32. I’ve never been a fan of Cruise, and I don’t think he’s ever been really good in any part. But that didn’t seem to matter in JACK REACHER because the story and the action carried the movie.

    As for tall, blonde actors born in the early 60’s? How about Iain Glen?

  33. pegsman- Just to say I very much gave a shit about Rik Mayall dying, and I have had THE NEW STATESMAN, BOTTOM, THE COMIC STRIP PRESENTS and RIK MAYALL PRESENTS on a loop for the last couple of weeks. I even convinced my mother to name her new rabbit B’Stard. Heck, I even convinced myself to watch DROP DEAD FRED

  34. Yeah I have fond memories of The Young Ones. It was a show me and my sisters looked forward to every week on tv, and we would quote it endlessly – “Oh look its a mousy on a string” (Rik Mayall playing with a tampon.)

  35. Rik Mayall, like Tom Cruise, was always himself in roles, intense and totally committed to a bit. Film should’ve taken advantage of that, somehow. But we’ll always have The Young Ones.

  36. Good to hear that there are Mayall fans out there. Not to sure about Mr Coat, though…

  37. The Original... Paul

    June 30th, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    I’ve always liked Rik Mayall as an actor (even in “Drop Dead Fred”) but my favorite thing he’s done has to be the “Black Canary” episode of Jonathan Creek (unquestionably the single best episode of one of my all-time favorite TV series.)

    Pegsman – I will champion Cruise’s performance in the original “Mission: Impossible” to the death. I’m not disputing how good he was in “Rain Man” or “Magnolia”, but to me his Ethan Hunt in that movie is something else. (Something entirely apart from the Ethan Hunt of the following movies too unfortunately. Shame, I liked that guy.) I also thought he was a scary little over-controlled psychopath in “Collateral”. And of course “Edge of Tomorrow” was just awesome and Cruise’s performance was a big part of that.

    All I’m saying is, don’t underestimate the guy.

  38. This Cruise/Mayall combo must be one of the strangest we’ve had here.

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