When it comes to action stars, Jason Statham is flying the UK flag high, having punched and kicked his way around the US Box office for over 20 years. But is he the greatest Brit to ever do it?
Jason Statham has quietly risen from modest beginnings in the East Midlands of England to the dizzy heights of Hollywood stardom without too much fanfare. He has somehow managed to avoid most of the tabloid stories and usual self-destructive behaviour that comes with a certain level of success to become only one of a few stars in the film industry whose name can generate the right amount of interest and get action fans into cinema seats. He has achieved this not by arrogance or entitlement but by hard work, real life martial arts skills and a huge dose of wit and charm.
The United Kingdom is known for its unparalleled roster of talented actors, many of whom have achieved that ‘A’ list Hollywood star status on their own. When you talk about the best of British male action talent, the likes of Idris Elba and Tom Hardy might come to mind. Both have had significant parts in action films and played tough guys, but neither of them are synonymous with the action film genre.
When you are talking about action stars, the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are names that are intrinsically linked to the genre. They have international profiles and most importantly, they have action franchises.
An action franchise (or at least a series) is the number one requirement to solidify your position as a bona-fide action star. You could argue that Daniel Craig’s extended turn as James Bond would qualify him, but Bond is a strange beast. It belongs to no one actor and despite many people having enjoyed Daniels gritty portrayal of super spy James Bond, he is merely a caretaker for the role. No one realistically considers Daniel Craig an action star!
When you see certain names up in lights outside the multiplex, you have a good idea what type of film you are likely to see. While they do dabble in other genres, they are unlikely to be in roles garnering attention for Oscar winning performances or true transformation. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it’s actually a positive for film studios.
If you want people to know you are trying to sell them an all-out action movie, casting an action star rather than an ‘actor’ to play one is the ideal way to get them in to the theatre if they want action. An actor like Statham is well known for being a convincing on-screen tough guy so if that’s what you are in the mood for, you know what you are getting before the movie even begins.
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Some may argue that the current worldwide top 3 list should read: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Statham. But Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson currently has Statham beat by a clear mile in terms of international recognition. But when it comes to action stars from the UK, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger one. He has worked alongside or against almost every major Hollywood action hero or villain including martial artists like Wesley Snipes and the legendary Jet Li, and more than held his own screen every time.
Guy Ritchie talks 20 years of friendship with Jason Statham
Unlike some actors, Statham is happy and comfortable in the action genre. He is very self-aware, understands the perceptions and the limitations of the genre but also knows that as long as he can still do it (at age 53), there will likely always be a place on screen for stars who can kick butt convincingly.
So, here are five action franchises that make Jason Statham worthy of the title ‘The UK’s biggest action star-EVER’
The Transporter 1-3 (2002- 2008)
The Transporter begins with Jason playing an ex special forces operative called Frank Martin, now living the quiet life in the French Mediterranean and taking on occasional jobs as a ‘transporter’, prepared to deliver anything to anyone for the right price with no questions. Until his conscious gets in the way of a particular job and all hell breaks loose. The first film was written by Luc Besson who continued involvement with the two sequels. This one was all about stylish driving and fighting, which proved good preparation for Fast and Furious!
Crank and Crank Refuelled (2006-2009)
Crank is simultaneously one of Jason Statham’s most slated films by critics but also one of his fan’s favourites. The film is so over the top and ridiculous, it’s clear to see why it got that critical reception. Jason is a British Hitman in Los Angeles who is poisoned and has to keep his adrenalin levels constantly elevated. He does this by rushing around the city driving fast, beating up bad guys, having sex all while trying to find the mob boss who poisoned him. It sounds like the plot of a mindless violent adult video game and played out pretty much like that which is why fans found it so much fun to watch.
The Mechanic and the Mechanic Resurrection (2011-2016)
Jason plays an elite hitman, a ‘Mechanic’ of death and ingenious escape artist who teaches his trade to a young apprentice. By this point, you are getting the idea, Jason Statham is generally elite and highly skilled in all his movies!
The Expendables 1-3 (2010-2014)
Despite this series being an ensemble piece and a who’s who of the action film genre, Statham’s Barney Ross is one of the originating cast members and shares most scenes with series creator Sylvester Stallone. He is a lead and has as much responsibility as Sly in carrying this franchise forward.
The Fast and the Furious – Hobbs and Shaw (2019)
Hobbs and Shaw marks the fourth time Jason has played the villain turn anti-hero turned hero Deckard Shaw which by my count definitely makes this a Statham Franchise. The fast and the furious is one of the most successful Billion-dollar action franchises of the last 10yrs. Having Jason as one of its leads demonstrates again just why he is the UK’s biggest action star.
If you disagree, feel free to let me know who you think is the top Brit in the comments below, along with their action film franchises…I’m waiting….