Blitz: Film Review

Not the bombardment of Jason Statham butt-kicking one hopes for.

Jason Statham stars in the second film, a London-based cop thriller, from director Elliot Lester.

PARIS — Less a Blitz than a dud, this latest Jason Statham thriller has The Transporter star pulling few punches but delivering several benign one-liners as a hardboiled cop out to catch a killer in London. Adapted from a novel by Ken Bruen (London Boulevard), this second feature from director Elliott Lester will see minimal theatrical payoff for Lionsgate, followed by an ancillary barrage honed in on Statham’s international fan base.

“Do I look like I carry a pencil?” asks Sergeant Brant (Statham) early on in Blitz, though this question was already answered in the film’s opening scene, where the wisecracking, whiskey-guzzling detective uses a hockey stick to beat down a group of thugs trying to steal his car. Having previously been suspended for anger management issues, Brant tries to cool his attitude until facing his next target: a crazed gunman (Aidan Gillen) who gets his jollies out of taking down officers from the local precinct.

But just when you would expect Statham to wreak havoc on London’s gritty southeast neighborhoods as he tracks the killer (who calls himself Blitz – “like Blitzkreig,” he explains, for those who didn’t get it) the script by Nathan Parker (Moon) has him sparing his fists for what’s supposed to be a darkly realistic intrigue about cops dealing with their own inner demons.

As more of them fall victim to a series of routinely handled assassinations, the initial suspense fades away amid subplots dealing with a former heroin addict turned beat patrolwoman (Zawe Ashton), and a by-the-book lieutenant, Nash (PaddyConsidine), whose homosexuality invokes the wrath of his colleagues.

When Brant and Nash finally decide to combine their good cop-bad cop instincts to take down Blitz, they save any real action for the bitter end, indulging in lots of repartee that’s meant to be funny but falls terribly flat (ex. “Describe the assailant.” “He was big and white.” “So he’s not that black kid from Different Strokes?”). The fact that such scenes are often captured in full master shots by DP Rob Hardy (Boy A, Red Riding) makes them drag on all the more longer, though the widescreen imagery does do justice to all the hard-edged London locations where the film was shot.

If there’s some value in a story revealing how police brutality can beget civilian brutality, Lester’s direction lacks the pizzazz to make it pop off the screen. Beyond a few lively chase sequences, the rather subdued Statham seems to crawl his way through much of the plot, and his combat skills are reduced to a few scattered sucker punches that look as if they were administered in his sleep. (The fact that his character claims to suffer from black-outs only underlines this effect). Considine (Submarine) tries to add some depth to the otherwise dull Nash, while Gillen (Game of Thrones) is stuck playing a serial killer whose main characteristic is that he never wears a t-shirt.

Opens: In France June 22 (Lionsgate)
Production companies: Lionsgate UK, Davis Films
Cast: Jason Statham, Paddy Considine, Aidan Gillen, Zawe Ashton, David Morrissey, Richard Riddell
Director: Elliott Lester
Screenwriter: Nathan Parker
Based on the book by: Ken Bruen
Producers: Zygi Kamasa, Steven Chasman, Donald Kushner, Brad Wyman
Executive producers: Ken Bruen, Guy Avshalom, Alwyn Kushner, Nick Manzi, Samuel Hadida, Victor Hadida
Director of photography: Rob Hardy
Production designer: Max Gottlieb
Music: Ilan Eshkeri
Costume designer: Suzie Hartman
Editor: John Gilbert
Sales Agent: Lionsgate International
No rating, 97 minutes