Mono-syllabic muscleman Jason ‘The Stats’ Statham takes centre stage in this gritty British crime thriller as a dour, punch first-questions later copper Detective Sergeant Tom Branton on the trail of a Police killin’ psychopath in south east London.
Spouting one-liners as he interrogates suspects in his own inimitable way, Statham’s modus operandi will be familiar to anyone who has seen one of his movies (a sub-genre in its own right surely?) yet the emphasis here is less on the action – director Elliot Lester’s sophomore film is a couple of action sequences short of what Stat-fans will expect.
This action shortage shifts the importance elsewhere though, with narrative and dialogue – not usually the big man’s forte – coming to the fore, and in this regard Lester’s thriller sticks rigidly to the path laid out by genre entries before. The police move in on their quarry, before he slips away to offer ensuing taunts and evasion before the final climactic face off.
The quotability quality is not as high as you might expect from the Transporter star though – Statham’s barbed response to a snitch questioning his policing methods: ““Do I look like I carry a pencil?” – but it is delivered with straight-faced conviction. Nathan Parker’s screenplay, from Ken Bruen’s source novel, while not exactly offering up a radical departure for Statham – his words are still brisk, his fists quick – at least attempts to inject a hint of a personality and depths beneath the muscle-bound veneer. Mumbling and moody are taken for granted, as are combat sequences that pitch the man against tooled up adversaries (Statham and hurling stick versus squad of hoodies), yet Brant comes with a full clip of depression, alkie hiccups and burned out regret too.
It does though squander some of the talent at its disposal: the ever dependable Paddy Considine is good value if underused as the head of the investigation drafted in from another branch to scores of homophobic prejudice and accusations of violence and corruption, and David Morrissey barely registers as the tabloid hack who becomes embroiled in the investigation. Its attempts to pass comment on journalistic integrity and tabloid intrusion add froth to a heady mix, the violence breeds violence pondering equally so, but Lester and Parker take a misstep in unveiling their prolific murderer so soon in the proceedings, their decision stripping the film of an element of suspense.
Yet the committed performances hold it together, not least from Aiden Gillen as the self-titled ‘Blitz’, the cop-taunting hammer-wielding maniac aiming to make it to ten kills, and Lester ensures that what could have been a feature length The Bill is forceful enough for the big screen and delivers on its promise as an engaging genre offering. Not as worthy as it might like to think it is, nor as grim as its ‘cop killer vs killer cop’ tag might suggest, but as a slice of crime flick entertainment is passes the test.