Millennium Entertainment // 2011 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 15th, 2011
Cop-killer versus Killer-Cop
I grew up in the era of the 1980s action star. Guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone dominated the screen. When their stars waned in the 1990s, it seemed like the era of the muscular leading man who likes to bash in heads was over. Then Jason Statham appeared in The Transporter, and a new era began. Statham has proved himself a reliable draw, either as the lead in films like Crank or as part of an ensemble like The Bank Job. He's so dependable, in fact, that his movies have become a bit formulaic: Statham as badass faces off against impossible odds and uses his brains and brawn to spectacularly kick the bad guys in the tail. It's a formula I love, but it will get stale eventually. Blitz appears to be another Jason-centric vehicle -- cop killer versus killer cop -- but actually hides a surprising dramatic thriller behind all the marketing hoopla. Although Blitz (Blu-ray) is unlikely to win Statham any new fans, it will keep his current ones satisfied.
Blitz opens with Detective Sergeant Brant (Jason Statham) on his couch taking a swig of whisky. He wanders to the window to see three young men in hoodies apparently in the process of stealing his car. Brant calmly grabs his hurley (like a field hockey stick) and walks down to them. When they give him lip, he calmly messes them up with the hurley while spouting some wonderful one-liners ("Word of advice, girls. If you're picking the wrong fight, at least pick the right weapon."). This gets him in hot water with the press, as it appears he's a cop out of control. This isn't what the police need right now, as a serial killer is targeting cops. When some of his friends are made targets, Brant must deal with his own demons to try to bring this killer, dubbed Blitz, to justice.
Based on the cover art and synopsis, Blitz looks like just another Jason Statham vehicle where our muscle-bound hero careens through London, bashing heads until he finds the killer. I was perfectly okay with that. Instead, Blitz is much more of an ensemble piece than it first appears. In addition to Statham's "killer cop," we get his boss Porter Nash (Paddy Considine, The Bourne Ultimatum) a homosexual cop with a past; Elizabeth Falls, a friend who's just got out of rehab after a stint as an undercover drug cop; and Blitz himself (Aiden Gillean, The Wire), a compelling, smarmy killer who makes the perfect villain. It helps that all these characters are played by excellent actors.
More importantly, this cast of characters allows Blitz to tell a story that's a little more complicated than "catch the killer." Obviously finding Blitz is the central story here, but the film weaves in police violence and corruption, the media's complicity in that violence, drug addiction, homosexuality, and burnout. Of course the film doesn't have the most original things to say about these issues, but it's nice to see a cop film that isn't afraid to balance the action with a bit of intellect. The multiple storylines also allow the film to build tension in the main story. The audience knows who the killer is very early on (and the cops find out not much later). By weaving the other stories into the capture of Blitz, the film builds tension by not proceeding to the obvious showdown between good guys and bad guy. Still, it wouldn't be a Jason Statham film without him kicking in some heads and cracking wise. Blitz doesn't ignore those moments, offering some satisfying cracks from Statham, both physical and verbal.
Blitz comes to Blu-ray with a solid AVC-encoded transfer. The film was shot with a lot of wide angle lenses and the picture can get a bit soft around the edges, though that's probably a deliberate choice and not a failing of the transfer. In general, though, detail is strong, and colors are well-saturated. Black levels are consistent and deep, and grain crops up appropriately in a few places. The DTS-HD surround track is fine as well, offering clear dialogue from the center channel, and a bit of atmosphere in the surrounds. The low end gets some use, but not as much as many action films. Subtitles are included for those who have trouble with British accents. Extras include some interviews with the cast and crew and a roll of behind-the-scenes footage. We also get the film's U.K. theatrical trailer.
I really enjoyed Blitz, largely for the surprising departure from Statham's other films. It's a bit smarter and more complicated than other revenge-oriented cop action flicks. However, something is missing that would take this film from good to great. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but the film is missing a crucial element. Part of the problem might be the lack of conventional action scenes. Sure, Statham gets to crack a few heads here and there, and there's a nice chase through the London streets, but overall the action quotient on this film is down a bit. Also, the film gets credit for having a number of characters and storylines, but it could do a much better job resolving them. Obviously the main storyline gets paid off, but somewhere along the way Falls gets left by the wayside, a plot convenience that doesn't quite end satisfactorily.
Blitz is an above-average cop-oriented thriller. Its solid cast tells a story that's just different enough from the usual police procedural to be compelling. It's not a perfect film, but it's worth a rental for action fans, and the presentation is solid enough to warrant purchase for admirers of Statham's work.
This killer-cop is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R