Jody Rosen on Jason Stathem’s rise to action-star greatness. When Stallone and The Guvahnator essentially fizzled away, nobody could’ve predicted the rise of Stathem. But, so it is. He is our generation’s action hero. Pretty much every movie he makes is worth watching (at least as background noise for other, more important, activities):
Statham’s real genius, of course, is physical. Jaw clenched, sinews tensed, pate gleaming, Statham churns across the screen, as aerodynamic as the Audi A8 he drives in the Transporter movies. (Given a choice, you’d rather collide with the car than the chauffeur.) The athleticism is not a special effect. Before getting into acting, Statham was a member of the British National Diving Team. And he is an accomplished mixed martial artist, which explains his finesse in the kinetic Transporter fight scenes and in the climactic showdown in War (2007), where Statham and Jet Li face off, armed with sledgehammers and shovels. In fact, Statham’s combination of brawn and flair is very Li-esque, very Hong Kong. Turns out, Hollywood’s biggest Asian action star in years is a white guy from Sydenham, South London.