Redemption (2013) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA rated: R for strong, bloody violence, graphic nudity and language
Running time: 100 min.
Cast: Jason Statham, Agata Buzek, Ger Ryan, Benedict Wong
Director: Steven Knight
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Review published June 7, 2013
Jason Statham (Parker, The Mechanic) plays Joey Jones, a former British special forces soldier living as an alcoholic homeless man on the dirty streets of London after going AWOL following some perceived misdeed he did while serving in Afghanistan. After being beaten in a brutal scuffle, Joey loses track of his friend Isabel (Victoria Bewick, The Iron Lady) when he squats inside a posh, uninhabited apartment to heal his wounds and clean himself up (luckily, the apartment's oft-traveling resident's clothing is a perfect fit for Joey). He steals a credit card for sustenance, and soon gets a job working in a Chinese restaurant, where his fighting skills catch the eye of the Chinese triad bosses, who are involved in a drug smuggling operation and could use some new muscle.
The money that Joey earns he sends to Sister Cristina (Buzek, The Reverse), the nun who kept him fed on a soup line while homeless, which keeps his conscience clear as he delves deeper into the criminal underworld in order to find out what happened to Isabel and who is responsible.
Whether you're watching this film as Hummingbird in some regions (Joey hallucinates hummingbirds while trying to detoxify) or Redemption in the U.S., no name is going to make this stinker smell sweet. If not for a respectable dramatic performance by Jason Statham, matched with quality support by Polish actress, Agata Buzek, this potboiler would have little to 'redeem' it. The story by writer and first-time director Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) is full of hackneyed clichés you'd never expect to see in modern times, feeling like a plot stemming from a B-movie from the 1930s. The new twist to the story, other than its graphic violence, is the romantic flirtations (and dalliances) between the Joey the thug and Cristina the nun, though the closer Joey gets, the further Cristina wishes to be to avoid the temptation.
Statham fans are likely to be mixed. As an actor, it is nice to see him give a credible effort in a role that isn't always requiring him to be a snarky bad-ass. However, those looking for the action actor to be that snarky bad-ass may be the ones that choose to give Redemption a pass. There are a few moments of action, mostly altercations that lead to some quite brutal melees, but not enough to sate those looking for a perpetually thrilling Statham starring vehicle.
The main problem with Redemption is that the story itself is not just bad, it's boring. The characterizations are lifeless and drab, only of interest just for what the actors bring to them rather than what comes forth through the writing. Had the story been about a nun struggling with her faith when she begins to have feelings for a two-bit gangster with his own code of morality, this might have proven a far more interesting tale. Alas, Statham is the draw here, so we see things from his perspective, and even though Jason gives the part some weight, the role itself is merely a patchwork of plot elements that lead up to reasons for him to kick ass or satisfy his sexual urges.
While it's nice to see Statham taking a role in something that's not just a variation on the same fast-driving, taciturn, semi-romantic bruiser that he's come to be known for over the last decade, it's unfortunate that one of his more nuanced performances is buried under mismatched morality-tale elements that are initially intriguing but frustratingly superficial in how they play out, especially undone with too-deliberate pacing and plot contrivances. It's hard to maintain interest in these damaged lives when the fashion in which they are presented is so lifeless.
©2013 Vince Leo