Finally, Judge Gordon Sullivan gets to see a drama about S&H Green Stamps.
Not all roads lead to salvation
Jason Statham is a near-perfect actor. No, I don't think he'll be doing Shakespeare at the Old Vic any time soon, but give him subpar material and he elevates it. Give him decent material and he does it justice. In today's action-obsessed movie marketplace, it's very difficult to ask for more. He'll never be a star like Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but Statham has demonstrated time and again that he can make the thousand clichés that make up action filmmaking seem fresh in a way that few actors have ever been able to do. Redemption offers Statham a chance to go a slightly different way with his action-hero persona, and the added range coupled with an off-kilter crime narrative make Redemption a fine offering in the low-budget action world.
Redemption, titled Hummingbird in other territories, is the story of damaged ex-Special Forces soldier Joey Jones (Jason Statham, Parker). He returns from the Middle East struggling with PTSD and alcoholism. Unable to lead a normal life, he chooses to become homeless, living in an abandoned apartment and assuming an identity. His life seems to be getting back on track as he befriends a nun and takes a job as an enforcer, but when violence erupts he must make a choice to change his life.
The greatest strength of Redemption is also its greatest weakness: it's trying to be three films in one. Part of the film attempts to be the typical Jason Statham-style action flick. Our hero runs around London doing dirty deeds, and not cheaply. Another part is a character-study of mental illness and the damages that can ravage a soldier. Statham has claimed in interviews that he and the producers talked to soldiers and homeless people to get a sense of what kind of illness and difficulties would mark his character. Another part of the film is a kind of drama of healing, as Jones comes out of his shell due to his unlikely friendship with a nun who is feeling rocky about her own faith.
Taken individually, these three stories actually work pretty well. Jason Statham is always up for a bit of violence, and the action set pieces here are well-executed by first-time director Steven Knight. The darker character stuff works pretty well, too. Statham is no stranger to dark and damaged men, and Jones is another notch in a well-worn belt of actorly accomplishment. Even the unlikely attraction between Jones and Sister Cristina works for a "fish out of water" type story. The problem is that none of these stories really talk to each other. The action material distracts us from the character building, and the darker character stuff isn't effectively addressed with the Cristina plot, so it ends up in a jumble that never quite gels.
It's especially disappointing because director Steven Knight also penned the screenplay, and he was responsible for another look at London's criminal underground, Eastern Promises. However, he didn't seem to learn the lessons of that feature for Redemption. The chief strengths of Eastern Promises are a well-plotted mystery at the center and an ensemble cast to bring it to life. Redemption has neither. The plot is fine enough for an action flick, but it's not strong enough to hold the psychological weight and symbolism that Knight seems intent on layering it with. Statham, too, is up to the task of his character, but one (or even two, if you count Cristina) character isn't enough to hang a movie on if you also want to shoehorn in some ass-kicking.
With that said, Redemption is hardly a bad movie, even if it does feel like it could have been better. Jason Statham gets to stretch a little outside his usual monosyllabic roles as the heavy. It's not King Lear, but continues to show that he can handle a variety of material, and his fans won't want to miss this one. Similarly, Knight shows himself to be a competent director, having obviously learned much in his years as a screenwriter. The action is well-directed, the film's visual scheme wonderfully executed, and the actors given enough room to do their thing.
Though it only spent a scant two weeks in nineteen theaters in the United States, Redemption (Blu-ray) gets a solid release. The 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer looks pretty slick. Detail is generally strong, with well-saturated colors, and black levels that stay consistent and deep. There's obviously a bit of stylization going on in the visuals, but this Blu-ray keeps up with the film's shifts. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is similarly effective. Dialogue is clean and clear, and the surrounds get a decent amount of use during action-oriented scenes. Dynamic range is pretty impressive, and the low end shows up quite a bit during intense moments.
The set's lone extra is a short making-of featurette that includes the usual EPK-style info on the film. There's also an option to download an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film.
Redemption won't revolutionize action cinema, or even get its star Jason Statham any new roles, but it does show he can carry a film on more than his ability to look good while fighting. Redemption (Blu-ray) is a solid release of the film, and fans of Statham should at least give it a rental.
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