The story is dark, gritty and down to earth as many war vets suffer psychological problems and as a result end up homeless or drug addicts.The movie is very character driven, layered which adds some needed depth to a Statham movie. He plays Joey Jones, a homeless war vet traumatized by his experiences and much of the story is about his character’s experience’s in the underworld of London. The movie feels authentic, the way its shot on the dark London streets and also reading that their was research done on Statham’s part preparing for the role.It’s good to see he can do a dramatic role plus use his action strengths and kick ass when he does.
The story is obviously about redemption, and as a Statham film it should have fistfights to show his enemies who’s boss. But instead his character here troubles facing his demons and has to commit crimes to get what he needs. It’s a much interesting story about people who have to deal with the unfair reality and beat it off with their skills. It surely has punching but they are used for torture rather than exciting action set pieces, though they may still remind you of a standard action film. The film suffers of balancing between tones. Example is the opening feels totally different from the rest of the movie. It looks like a complete thriller until it randomly jumps to art-house crime drama. Probably, it’s a set up for the ones who came for the action by the main actor’s existence in the film, but it goes again whenever Joey beats up someone for his job. Maybe the problem is these scenes are not grim enough. They should have shown an uglier depiction of violence.
Along the way of Joey’s transformation, he is hired as muscle by a Chinese gang, a job which he reluctantly takes, and which ultimately goes against the morals he decides to adhere to. His nun love interest, Agata Buzek, finds Joey’s willingness to support crime repulsive, with it being the major barrier between the two and a relationship. As his work becomes more and more violent and the world starts to close in on Joey, he is forced to make the decision between becoming a good man and being able to live with himself, or losing that which he truly holds dear. Agata meanwhile is confronted with her life choices with Joey’s arrival and is torn between her duty as a nun and her natural instinct to be free. Redemption is a brilliant achievement, injected with emotion, tension, love and passion. Thrills are more of a subplot than anything else.
Overall, I think this is a very great movie. The main problem is that it doesn’t have any publicity, marketing and critic support, except well, for me! The film is greatly enhanced by the cinematography by Chris Menges and the original musical score by Dario Marianelli. But in the end the film belongs to Jason Statham who may possible be offering his best role to date.