Who's In It: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn
The Basics: Statham is a cold methodical assassin known for his skill and precision. He has no relationships; even the woman he has regular sex with he treats like a prostitute (the movie never says what she is, but she doesn't get offended when he leaves a stack of money behind). So it's kind of weird to see him succumb to sentimentality and take on Ben Foster--the son of a man he just eliminated—as a killing protégé. Together they form an uneasy bond, a chill mentor and a borderline psychotic, and the pair successfully create a lot of business for coffin makers. But you know Statham is going to regret his decision when, like all good teams, they find themselves on opposite ends of contracts. That's when it gets somewhat less friendly.
What's The Deal: In these troubled times when talk in the culture is about decreasing violent rhetoric and there's a renewed discussion about the role of guns in everyday life, it's up to generic action movies like this to remind us all that brutal violence is still really awesome as long as the blood is fake and the guns are plastic. You can't really call this a great movie, maybe not even a good one. But it's effective. It never pretends like it's going to be anything more or better than what you expect, and it never gives you anything less than totally entertaining gun blasting, car crashing and face smashing. Lots of it.
The Jason Statham Dilemma: He plays to his strengths, you have to admit. He knows what he's good at and he keeps making that same movie over and over. You know exactly what he's going to do with the gun he'll have on him at all times (kill 'em all), precisely how much facial stubble he's going to leave the house with (approximately one day's worth), how often he'll smile (never) and who's going to die (everyone except him). There's a comfort food quality to that sort of career. But if you're the kind of person who doesn't want the same thing for breakfast every day, it can start to feel sort of samey.
Based On: The 1972 Charles Bronson movie of the same name. If you go back and watch the original, you realize that it's even colder and deader inside than this version. Lots of long silences and bloodless performances (translation: bad acting) make it seem more like The American than the kind of noisy death matches audiences enjoy now. It's still worth looking at, though, if only for the anti-groovy, let's-watch-hippies-commit-suicide commentary it provides for its historical moment, the oppressive and garish early 70s set design and, best of all, a merciless ending most studios would balk at today.
The One You Might Have Missed: The generically titled The Bank Job. That's the best JS movie there is.