– Summary –
Director : Elliot Lester
Year Of Release : 2011
Principal Cast : Jason Statham, Paddy Considine, Aidan Gillen, David Morrissey, Zawe Ashton.
Approx Running Time : 97 Minutes
Synopsis: When a serial killer goes on a murderous spree against police in south London, a renegade cop and his superior officer take up the hunt to bring him down.
What we think : A better than average Statham vehicle, Blitz is one of those films that could work equally well as a TV show; its unremarkable plotting is elevated by some great performances by Paddy Considine and Aidan Gillen, and even though Statham spends a great deal of time looking out of his depth amongst genuine actors, he does a solid enough job with a thinly developed character. Blitz delivers a few shocks, and yet in the end, you can kinda see it coming.
This film was advertised as “Cop killer vs killer cop”, and never a more false statement has been made in relation to a film. The front cover of the DVD might have you thinking that Statham plays the killer cop, which is far from the truth in this instance. This darkly brutal cop-based thriller has very few action moments, like a lot of American product might, so this British film will probably bore a lot of Statham’s fans who come looking for yet another kickass time. The film begins promisingly, with Statham beating up three louts trying to break into a car, but the slow nature of this script and the methodical way it ratchets up the tension, indicate something of a shift from the usual guns-n-‘splosions product Statham’s usually involved in. I think what the filmmakers were trying to do was humanize Statham a little, and in trying to do this they’ve teamed him up with one Paddy Considine – an actual actor. This partnering of Statham is the first time I’ve ever seen him do a film like this with somebody given equal screen time, and while it works ostensibly, Statham’s belligerent personality never lends itself to a genuine rapport with Considine’s gay police officer role. Blitz, however, focuses less on the police and more on the criminal committing the crimes, a point I thought was odd but effective.
Detective Sgt Tom Brant (Jason Statham) teams up with recently out-of-the-closet Sgt Porter Nash (Paddy Considine) to track down and stop mad killer Barry Weiss (Aidan Gillen), who is targeting police officers in what appear to be revenge attacks. Meanwhile, a tabloid newspaper reporter (David Morrissey) makes contact with the killer, and uses his insider knowledge to try and exploit the situation for his own gain. One of Brant’s colleagues, a former undercover officer now a recovering drug addict, PC Elizabeth Falls (Zawe Ashton) becomes one of Weiss’ targets, which puts Brant on heightened alert as the web closes in on the vicious, unstoppable, maniacal killer.
After countless episodes of crime procedurals like Law & Order, CSI, Criminal Minds and the like, it’s hard to find anything new to appreciate in the genre. The crimes tend towards more heinous, the cops more often flout the law to get the job done, and there’s usually some kind of twist along the line that makes picking “whodunnit” an effort fraught with danger. Films attempting to achieve what most crime procedurals churn out each and every week in the space of 90 minutes or so had better up their game in making either the crimes more salacious, the characters more appealing, or the mystery more convoluted, so the audience doesn’t get bored and switch off. Blitz represents a decent enough attempt to achieve this, even if the end result is something less than the sum of its quite impressive parts. As a crime procedural movie, Blitz ticks all the right boxes, yet still feels undercooked.
As far as casting goes, Blitz never puts a foot wrong. Statham, true to form, glowers and grunts his way through the movie with as little character growth as possible, leaving the “acting” to actual thespians – and co-stars – Considine and Gillen. You kinda get the feeling watching this that the film-makers approached his character knowing it’d be played by Statham and figured they’d keep it as simplistic as possible. That’s a fairly safe option, and one which works well within the constraints of the story. Paddy Considine, as Statham’s gay superior officer, can’t seem to get a grip on whether he’s supposed to be the “kooky one” or the “straight one” – pun intended – alongside Statham, and the role felt undefined and hodge-podge. Considine’s proven himself a terrific actor in the past, although here he seemed a little out of his depth. Of the three major players in this film, it’s Aidan Gillen who not only steals the show, he steals it, throws it back to his co-stars and steals it again. Gillen’s creepy, nuanced, utterly psychopathic killer is a terrific monstrosity of a character, and the actor looks like he had a hoot playing up the role. David Morrissey is underused as the generic reporter trying to use the story to further his career, while Zawe Ashton’s role of a former undercover agent recovering from drug addiction is confusingly obscure – exactly why her role gets the screen time it does never makes sense, and the end result comes across as a little bit too overreaching by director Elliot Lester.
Speaking of direction, Lester’s visual style and sense of pacing on Blitz is certainly appropriate for the gritty, urban nature of the story. This isn’t a clear-cut, highrise city-bound actioner; rather, it’s a melancholy journey through the mean streets of London, filled with drizzling rain, grimy streets and underbelly slime. Lester handles the films dramatic moments fairly well, although his rather perfunctory framing and occasional haphazard editing keep viewers off-balance in terms of the tone of the work. The major action pieces, which are few and far between, are filmed well, with Lester handling the brutal opening sequence between Statham and some car thieves with a sense of urgency and panache; all of which seems to evaporate once mouths open to explain the plot. While the cast do a generally solid job with their roles, Lester’s inability to generate real tension within the film is the downfall of the whole thing. Where a creepy brutality might have gone a long way to give the film a spark, or a definitive sense of style, as it stands Blitz seems content to operate under the TV-centric methodology to which we’re all acclimatized. The film feels too safe.
You can normally count on the British to deliver films of a certain quality – hell, even on their worst days most British films seem to be better than a lot of the crap out of Hollywood – although I’m afraid Blitz rather disappoints in every regard. The script feels generic, the characters don’t really settle into the film with a sense of realism, and the somewhat we-tried-to-keep-this-low-budget feeling you get while watching it manages to undermine the potential it had to truly entertain. As a Statham vehicle, it’s not his best, although as a brief bit of quiet amongst the Expendables franchise, it’s worth a look.