It’s not a cinematic adaptation of the classic arcade football game, sadly, but Jason Statham‘s new movie “Blitz” provides about as much cartoonishly manly entertainment as a couple hours with Midway’s long running NFL franchise. The tagline of the film reads “Killer-cop versus cop-killer,” and it’s very possible that is an unabridged copy of the screenplay as well. This is not a movie about dialogue, but about good and bad man alternately glaring at and chasing after each other, and then sitting down for drinks before they get up and run around all over again.
Statham stars as Sgt. Brant, a loose cannon of a cop with a reputation for excessive violence and brutality on the job. He drinks too much, he curses too much, and when he catches some goons jacking a car, he beats them all to within an inch of their lives with a field hockey stick (I’m just going to assume Statham is currently out of the country, otherwise the London riots would never have gotten off the ground). Brant’s tedious routine is doubly shattered by two major developments on the force: his boss, the Chief Inspector, retires after his wife’s death and is replaced by a new man from another district (Paddy Considine) and a mysterious hooded figure (Aidan Gillen, a.k.a. Mayor Carcetti from “The Wire”) is bumping off cops one and a time. Statham and the new man in charge have to figure out who’s killing policemen and why before they wind up on “The Blitz”‘s (his preferred nickname) target list.
Directed by Elliott Lester and written by “Moon” screenwriter Nathan Parker from a novel by Ken Bruen, “Blitz” does, in fact, provide a few clever twists on the psycho cop killer genre. Maybe most interesting and least explored is the fact that Considine’s character is openly gay, and Statham’s character doesn’t have the greatest reputation for, let’s say, sensitivity to those with views on sexuality different from his own. A buddy cop movie with one straight partner and one gay partner is a great idea, and in the one scene Statham and Considine get to flesh out their relationship, they’ve got great chemistry. Sadly, the movie is just 97 minutes long, and way too busy with Gillen’s character to really let that dynamic blossom to its full potential.
Gillen is good, though, as your garden variety sociopath. He’s certainly having a lot of fun dressing in hideous track suits and neon green sunglasses and running through the streets of London topless. He’s pretty obviously guilty from the first moment the police interrogate him, but the film repeatedly insists that there’s no evidence to convict him, which enables The Blitz to continue his crimes, and forces Statham and Considine to try to figure out a way to catch their mad killer in the act. It’s an enjoyable trope of loose cannon cop movies in the style of “Dirty Harry,” but in this case it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m no expert on the English judicial system, and the legal requirements to charge someone with a crime. But I have to imagine that if someone was murdered while in possession of a manilla envelope stuffed with £50,000, and then a suspect turned up with the exact same manilla envelope with the exact same amount of money, that’s probably enough evidence for an indictment. Evidently not; the gloating Blitz walks out of the police station waving his pile of money for all the media cameras to see.
Dopey stuff like that, and a pointless subplot involving a friend of Statham’s on the force who’s a recovering drug addict, keep “Blitz” from entering the pantheon of greatest Jason Statham vehicles (a distinction I would bestow on the first and third “Transporter,” “The Bank Job,” the two “Crank” films, and “Killer Elite,” even though that last one isn’t even out yet). Still, all three leads give strong performances and Parker’s screenplay has enough twists and turns (including a good surprise ending) to make “Blitz” a solid thriller. It’s going straight-to-DVD in the States today, but I’ve seen much, much worse movies in theaters than this one. And recently too.