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The Glory of Action Villain Jason Statham

The Glory of Action Villain Jason Statham

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Last week, it was leaked and subsequently confirmed that Jason Statham was in deep negotiations to play the villain Bullseye on the upcoming season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. This news was probably the greatest moment of my whole life. Then not even 48 hours later, the talks broke down for whatever mystical Hollywood reason. Statham would not be playing the iconic villain of Bullseye, which was probably the saddest moment of my whole life, because we missed out on an opportunity to watch Statham be an action villain again.

The only thing better than Action Hero Jason Statham is Action Villain Jason Statham, and that’s a side of him that only 2 films have explored to date with 11 years between the two. We could have gotten up to THIRTEEN WHOLE HOURS of Action Villain Jason Statham, and even more so on a show that had surprisingly great and excitingly choreographed action scenes. Could you imagine Statham getting in on the fight choreography behind that amazing one-take hallway fight? After you finish wiping the tears from your eyes caused by the beauty of such a thought, and we’ve arrived at an inevitable conclusion: Marvel will most likely get someone that will suit the role of Bullseye well, but that person will never be as glorious as Action Villain Jason Statham.

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By my count (some films on his IMDB you can debate not being action films), Statham has been in 25 action films starting with a supporting role in Ghosts of Mars in 2001. Of those 25, he’s been the star of 15 of them (We’re not counting The Expendables films, those are team efforts, and we’re discarding War and Chaos), a strong %60 of his action filmography, making him an undisputed action hero in the largest volume of his work in the genre. Everyone knows him as an action hero, as Frank Martin (The Transporter films) and Chev Chelios (The Crank films– nay, masterpieces). However, he’s only been the villain twice in his iconic career as a badass, and both times he’s delivered some of his most memorable work.

There’s always been a danger to Statham in his ruggedness and his unmistakably identifiable harsh British accent. When he’s on screen, everything can be a weapon, there’s even a part in this year’s Wild Card where he cuts open a guy’s forehead with a credit card. There’s a sort of unhinged brutality to his characters that he makes so watchable. Consider the opening scene of Blitz (Disclosure: if you haven’t seen Blitz, then you haven’t been living right) where he beats up a bunch of teenage hoodlums with a hurling stick just for the hell of it, afterwards dropping the quip: “If you’re picking the wrong fight….at least pick the right weapon.” Essentially, you’re watching Statham beat the shit out of teenagers who stood no chance just because he felt like it, and he’s the hero of the film. You follow him and root for him without even thinking about it even after watching this, and that’s a testament to Statham’s hold as an action hero. You simply just love watching him kick ass, no matter whose ass it is. Now take that likeability and trust, and then flip it to where he’s the villain rather than the hero.

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Cellular, released in 2004, is the greatest 90s action film that wasn’t made in the 90s. It’s basically Speed but with a cellphone, and the only reason it wasn’t made in the 90s is because cellphones weren’t popular enough back then to be a plot device. Statham is absolutely terrifying as Ethan Greer, main villain and part of a conspiracy to cover up police corruption. Statham did have the iconic role of Frank Martin in the first Tranporter film as well as Handsome Rob in The Italian Job under his belt at the time, but most audiences were still getting to know Statham as an action star. Statham takes the role of the villain and runs with it, elevating the film from Straight-to-DVD genre fare to genuinely fun B-movie genre fare. Watching the fierce command that Statham had in the role of Ethan gave off a real sense of danger, and unfortunately it would take another 11 years (and another script by Cellular and Furious Seven writer Chris Morgan) for us to get another look at Statham in action villain glory with this year’s Furious 7.

Statham created the franchise’s greatest villain with Deckard Shaw, topping 2 Fast 2 Furious’s Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) and Fast & Furious 6’s Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), and he does it all in his very first scene. It finds him in a close up as he waxes on the responsibilities of brotherhood to Owen as he lies unconscious in a hospital bed. As he leaves and the shot gets wider, we discover the absolute carnage that he has brought to the hospital just to see his brother. Dozens upon dozens of SWAT officers are dead, and parts of the building are totally blown up. While much is owed to James Wan’s inventive and creative direction of the scene in how he slowly opens the danger of Deckard Shaw up to the audience, it’s ultimately Statham that sells it. You’ve seen him kick ass on screen for years, all he has to do is show up, put on a menacing scowl and you believe that he could cause all that unbelievable carnage. Deckard, and Statham, continue to enforce the reputation throughout the film as Deckard becomes a seemingly invincible ghost combined with a one-man army, constantly finding new ways to screw up Dominic Toretto’s day.

After record-setting box office returns for Furious Seven, and great returns for Spy, which has Statham in a supporting role, things are looking great for Statham. After all this box office success, he’ll be able to have a certain leverage in the action roles he takes, and we can only hope we get to see more of him as a villain. His interest in Bullseye seems indicative of that, let’s hope the breakdown of negotiations there only opens up another villain opportunity. I’ll always watch Statham as an action hero, but right now I’m really craving Action Villain Jason Statham.

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