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Why Jason Statham can’t break out of the B-movie action genre

HollywoodNews.com: For all intents and purposes, Jason Statham has been an action star since 2002, when Fox released the Luc Besson-produced The Transporter. Yes, more hardened film fans knew him from his Guy Ritchie work and from his supporting role in The One (a Jet Li vehicle from late 2001, the first of three times he would spar with Jet Li onscreen).

But for general moviegoers and action junkies, Statham was introduced as Frank Martin eleven years ago as of October 11th. In that time, Statham has arguably become the king of an all-but vanished genre. He is basically the last action hero, the lone movie star known primarily for kicking ass in a non-fantasy and non-period setting. But nine years is a long time to toil in the underbelly of grind house B-movie cinema. He’s had the occasional high-end picture (The Bank Job), supporting roles in A-level studio thrillers (The Bank Job) and flirtations with the big time (playing the second lead in The Expendables). But nine years since he literally kicked down the door to stardom, Jason Statham remains pretty much where he started.

So why hasn’t the biggest pure action star of his generation eventually found his way to bigger and better things? Call it bad timing, or the misfortune of being a star in the wrong era. Just as George Reeves became a television star at just the wrong time (after the studio contract era but before the ‘playing against type is cool’ era), Jason Statham is an action star in a time when pure action pictures are all-but extinct. He is a B-movie action star in an age where A-movie action pictures more or less don’t get made anymore.

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger could move from B-movies like The Running Man, Raw Deal, Red Heat, and Commando to more A-level features like Predator and finally Total Recall in 1990. Steven Seagal could go from Hard to Kill or Marked For Death to something like Under Siege. But big-budget, R-rated, non-fantasy action pictures are more-or-less extinct in the post-Columbine era. As I’ve noted before (HERE), the post-Columbine crackdown on marketing to younger audiences have all-but completely put the kibosh on big-budget, R-rated action pictures. There really isn’t a bigger, more ‘mainstream’ action vehicle for Statham to graduate to. Studios don’t make A-level action thrillers anymore.

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About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

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One Comment

  • September 27, 2011 | Permalink |

    I think that Jason Statham is a great actor. Action is what he’s good at. I don’t think I could picture him in any other genre.

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