Is it just me, or have we now gotten to a point where Jason Statham movies don't even need plot descriptions anymore? Hell, I'm not so sure they even need titles. Just put the actor's face on a box, give him an icy stare or a pensive expression, and audiences will pretty much know exactly what they're getting themselves into. The British action star's latest effort, 'Redemption,' mostly fits this usual bill, and I don't think I'd be surprising anyone if I said that the movie featured plenty of scenes involving the performer kicking ass while looking sullen. With that said, to his credit, writer/director Steven Knight (best known for scripting 'Eastern Promises') actually does offer a few interesting breaks from typical genre conventions, and while the film still ends up being predictable, these slight detours help to elevate the flick above a lot of Statham's other recent work.
For what it's worth, the plot follows a disgraced veteran, Joey (Jason Statham), who has become a homeless alcoholic while hiding out from a potential court martial. After being attacked by some thugs in an alley, the down-on-his-luck drunk stumbles upon a ritzy apartment, and with the owner not scheduled to return for several months, he decides to take up residence in the flat. Sober and cleaned up, he soon becomes an enforcer for a Chinese gang, but his burgeoning friendship with a local nun (Agata Buzek) forces him to question his criminal activity. Just as it seems like he might be able to turn over a new leaf, a close friend is murdered, and Joey decides to risk everything for a chance at revenge.
When we first meet Statham's character, he's dirty, disheveled, scraggly-haired, and barely able to defend himself -- a far cry from his usual badass on-screen persona. In fact, he's almost killed by a pair of petty thieves (though, he does of course get a good punch or two in himself). This atypical characterization doesn't last for long, however, and soon the character becomes the exact kind of solemn, quietly angry ass-kicker we've come to expect. I'm not complaining, mind you, but the transformation is a bit abrupt and the circumstances behind his sudden decision to start over are a little weak.
Still, this path toward redemption does set up a solid base for the film to build upon, and while there are plenty of tried-and-true plot twists and characterizations, Knight does go down a few unorthodox detours. To this end, a great deal of the runtime is actually dedicated to a growing relationship between Joey and a nun, Christina. Though certain beats in their coupling are a little hard to buy, the pair's interactions and conversations are handled with a sensitive and insightful hand. Their potential romance ends up fueling most of the film's underlining themes of salvation, revealing that the two might not be so different after all, and Statham and Polish actress Agata Buzek share interesting chemistry.
This emphasis on slower, character based plotting is interspersed with a few engaging action scenes, letting Statham do what he does best. Knight stages his fight sequences well, offering a kinetic sense of motion and excitement without relying on too many flashy gimmicks that would obstruct all of the actor's cool choreography. One scene featuring a decidedly unconventional use of a spoon is particularly memorable. With that said, the combination of action and methodical character study does lead to a fairly odd and occasionally meandering rhythm. That isn't necessarily meant as criticism, though, and it's actually this unusual sense of pace that helps to separate the film from other very similar efforts.
Unfortunately, Knight's attempts to stray from convention aren't always successful, and the film's revenge plotline ends up being its weakest and most underdeveloped aspect. The relationship between Joey and his murdered friend is barely established before the latter character is disposed of, making it really hard to care about his thirst for vengeance. Likewise, the script mostly skims over elements dedicated to the character's revenge in favor of more scenes involving the aforementioned nun subplot. This focus is actually more interesting, but the film's climax ends up switching gears and the lack of development and build-up for Joey's quest for retribution causes a slight disconnect in the third act that makes the script feel uneven.
In 'Redemption,' Jason Statham plays yet another bad-ass criminal with a conscience, and while the film's familiar story doesn't completely separate itself from past efforts, writer/director Steven Knight does break from traditional plotting in a few surprisingly engaging ways. With a nice mixture of action and a solid human story, the flick almost overcomes its otherwise clichéd and undeveloped elements. The film doesn't fully find the salvation that it's looking for, but it distinguishes itself just enough from the star's increasingly assembly line filmography to warrant a look.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate presents 'Redemption' in a Blu-ray/UltraViolet Combo Pack. A BD-25 disc comes housed in a keepcase with a carboard slipcover along with instruction for a downloadable digital copy. After some skippable trailers, the screen transitions to a standard menu. The release is region A coded.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. With pleasing clarity and slick cinematography, the image looks quite good.
Shot digitally on the Arri Alexa, the source is in nearly pristine condition, with only a very light layer of grain-like noise and some negligible shimmering in isolated instances. The picture isn't quite razor sharp, but fine details are strong, giving Statham's stubbled grimace all the attention it deserves. Colors are nicely rendered, and the moody lighting on the streets of London pops with neon reds and blues. Dimension is also solid and, while a little subdued, contrast is good. With that said, black levels are a bit light.
'Redemption' comes to Blu-ray with a steady transfer free from any major problems. The movie's style seems to be preserved well, and the picture is clean and professional.
The film is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. Immersive and exciting, this is a powerful and engaging mix that suits both the film's action scenes and its character driven moments.
Dialogue is clean and well balanced with no technical problems to speak of. The mix maintains an immersive atmosphere with a convincing sense of space and texture. Choppers, wind, passing cars, sirens, and street clatter all make their way around the room with smooth imaging, and isolated effects like flickering lights enhance the film's mood. Action sequences are standouts, and bullets, fists, and anything else Statham turns into a weapon all come through with hard hitting fidelity. Explosions also pack a punch, with deep low frequencies, and dynamic range as a whole is wide and diverse.
Well produced and immersive, this is a strong audio presentation that while not quite demo material, demonstrates pleasing balance, refinement, and some appropriate bravado.
'Redemption' is a decent but flawed crime flick. Though most the of the runtime is pretty much in line with what audiences have come to expect from star Jason Statham's filmography, the actor turns in a good performance and writer/director Steven Knight offers a few atypical detours from genre conventions and pacing. The video transfer and audio mix are both good, giving viewers an engaging home theater experience with no major problems. Sadly, the only extra we get is a very brief featurette. Still, the movie is solid and the disc's technical presentation is strong. Worth a look.