Jason Statham plays an emotionally devastated former cop/ex-Special Forces guy who by chance encounters a 12 year-old Chinese girl (Catherine Chan) who is a mathematics whiz highly sought after by just about every criminal (James Hong, Reggie Lee, and Russian mobster Sándor Técsy), crooked politician (Chris Sarandon as a NY mayor) and corrupt cop (Robert John Burke) in NY. Statham becomes her unlikely protector, perhaps being given a reason to go on living.
A Jason Statham movie that critics didn’t hate? Surely it must favour a good story and characters over action then. It’s true, this 2012 thriller from writer-director Boaz Yakin (“Fresh”, “Remember the Titans”) gives Statham a more interesting role than usual, and the film is never dull and has an intriguing plot (albeit a tad too similar- but better than- “Mercury Rising”) and downbeat tone.
However, Statham is actually not quite up to par for what the role requires, and is lethargic and uninteresting. Yes, he’s always the same, but while that works well in the underrated “Crank” films, this film requires a bit more of him emotionally than he seems willing or capable of giving. I’m not sure if it’s Statham (who has absolutely no grasp on a particular accent here), the script, or both, but the connection between him and young Catherine Chan just isn’t where Yakin seems to intend.
Meanwhile, the narrative approach, especially early on is frustratingly discombobulating. For once, here’s a film that is trying too hard to cut to the chase, either that or the editor was a speed freak. The jumps in time are truly insane, and not in a good way. Also insane is the potentially fine martial arts fight in a restaurant...rendered ineffective due to the camera shaking. Dear Stefan Czapsky (“Vampire’s Kiss”, “Batman Returns”), STOP IT! All it does is alert me to the presence of a camera.
Positives include an underused but scene-stealing turn by veteran James Hong, and pretty good work by Reggie Lee in support. I also found it kind of interesting that the film had several sets of villains, and how Statham was forced with some of them to take out the others. However, a shitty wrap-up seems to let several of the bad guys off very lightly, if not completely.
With a superior lead actor, better camerawork, and a cleaner narrative, this might’ve been better. And for a Jason Statham film, frankly, I’d much rather watch him in his element in the “Crank” films than something that he’s just not equipped for.