As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Scrutinizing Statham

Posted by Hedwig on July 30, 2009

The boyfriend has two big man-crushes. The longest standing one is on the Gubernator, but currently the most prominent one is on the guy who’s already been anointed the new big action hero: Jason Statham. I’d seen a few of his movies b.BF. (Lock Stock, Snatch, The Italian Job), but with him I’ve also dived into some of his less… reputable flicks, most notably the Transporter, The Transporter 3, Death Race, The Bank Job and now Crank.

Transporter-3-teaser

The odd thing is that Ah-nuld and Statham are quite different. I want to say they’re like the immovable object versus the unstoppable force, but that’s not quite right. The main difference is that while Arnold is strong and seemingly invulnerable, Statham is less imposing but incredibly kinetic. It’s no coincidence, I think, that so many of his films revolve around some kind of clock or count-town. While he always seems reluctant at first, once he starts going he’s always in motion, always racing. The scary thing about Schwarzenegger in the Terminator was that he was unrelenting: you could outrun him for a while, but he’d never stop coming. What scares Statham’s opponents is that you never see him coming, and you never know when he’s going to show up.

Of course, in these movies, the women are mere eye-candy, and depicted in rather stereotypical fashion. In these testosterone-driven action movies, the women are mainly there to provide the man with motivation, whether it’s revenge or (more often) rescue. The romantic interest the hero has in the girl is often quite limited, often enough: she’s there to affirm his heterosexuality, but too much sappiness would undo that.

Dismissing the depiction of these girls as “sexist”, however, is a little pointless. A much more interesting way to look at gender in these movies is to focus on the depictions of masculinity, and it’s in that respect that Statham is more interesting than Schwarzenegger. The latter, despite his “Mr. Universe” title and a tendency for shirtlessness, is never really presented as a sexual object. His muscles are a symbol, and maybe even envied by some, but I don’t think many women find Arnold attractive. Statham, however, is consistently depicted as desirable, and not just because he kicks ass: his body is lingered on, for instance when a hospital stay in Crank leads to several gratuitous shots of his ass, and when a fighting scene in The Transporter finds him covered from top to bottom in oil.

Transporter 3 is the movie in which this fetishization becomes most obvious, and when I was watching it I had the vain hope (for all of 5 minutes) that the movie was doing something truly transgressive: that it was openly admitting the objectification of its hero by emphasizing the “feminine gaze”. First, during a fight, we see Valentina (the Ukrainian girl Statham’s Frank Martin’s been saddled with) looking on lustily, especially after Martin takes off his jacket, then shirt, to use as a weapon – a signature move. Later, she steals his keys, and orders him to strip for her.

I was amazed by this scene, and in a good way: it’s not often (outside of an Axe-commercial) that you see a woman showing such focused, unapologetic lust. Women are supposed to get turned on because of words, specific actions, scent. Not over someone’s chest. What’s more, while Statham is annoyed at first, he goes along with it: the woman is the agent here, the man the passive participant.

Then of course, in the next scene, they’re all lovey dovey and he’s become her sworn protector.

Can I have a *yuck*? Thus, Transporter 3 went from being the potentially most transgressive and interesting film in the Statham oeuvre to just another second sequel, with action scenes not quite up to the simplicity of The Transporter or the outrageousness of Crank.

Speaking of Crank, I think I’m a little in love with that movie. It’s not good, far from it, but at’s least it’s never boring or lazy. Its style is crazy and very disjointed, but it’s visually inventive, consistently surprising, and it knows exactly how to use Statham’s coiled energy. It’s exciting, it’s over-the-top, it’s funny… and I can’t wait to see the sequel, which -I’ve heard- manages to take it up a notch, somehow. I’m almost tempted to check out Pathology the only other film by directing due Neveldine/Taylor. Almost.

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One Response to “Scrutinizing Statham”

  1. Lanchka said

    Oh, way cool interpretation of the feminine gaze! Too bad it didn’t exactly pan out in the next scene. I wish more…um…adult entertainment movies…would think about the feminine gaze. Anyway, I digress. Erik also has a thing for Statham. I might actually be able to watch the next such movie with a more open mind given your reviews 🙂

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