The movie Redemption really requires consideration of Jason Statham’s film career.
Statham seemingly came out of nowhere to become a sophisticated-looking action hero with the Transporter movie series (and though many did not care much for the sequels, I thought all three were good). He was in films before that, appearing in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels back in 1998 and Transporter didn’t come out until 2002, but that was the first film I saw him in. He currently has about 39 films to his credit, virtually all of them being action films in which he often makes use of his martial art skills. Like Jackie Chan, normally he does all of the stunt work and fight scenes himself. Wikipedia describes him as having studied Wing Chun kung fu, karate and kickboxing. I am no martial arts expert but to me his style seems much influenced by savate, as he is particularly good with his feet. That, and the look of Transporter had me thinking that he is French, but actually he is British, and Redemption one might say brings him back home, because it is set in London.
Redemption actually has 3 different titles, depending on the region of release: it is also called “Hummingbird” [I am assuming in Great Britain] and “Crazy Joe” in France.
Statham’s prototypical look involves a short, stubbly beard and moustache [like a week without a shave], and a significantly balding head. He usually plays a morally ambiguous character, and when he’s doing “down and out” his hair may be long and dirty. In other scenes he will appear in very well-tailored suits which, with the stubbly beard and moustache creates a quite distinctive look. Compared to the average male action-hero [think Schwarzenegger, Stallone, etc] who were often faulted early on for their lack of emotional expression, their wooden delivery of lines etc, Statham from the start seemed to have more acting talent, as well as genuine martial arts capability.
Then, after Transporter 2 his film career seemed to nose dive disappointingly. Prototypical examples would be “Crank”, "Crank II- High Voltage", and the Expendables series (the first was not bad but II and III got progressively worse). Jason, say it ain’t so—you aren’t going to go the way of Steven Seagal are you?
Thankfully I can say that Redemption is the best film starring Statham that I’ve seen since the first Transporter [admittedly, I haven’t seen all of his films]. In fact, considering the overall thoughtfulness of this material, it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen him in.
It’s not possible to say much about the plot without spoiling it for those who haven’t watched it, but at the beginning of the film it’s obvious that his character had been a British military operative, apparently in Afghanistan along with the other “coalition” forces. After a patrol goes very badly he ends up going AWOL, and at the start of the movie he’s a homeless street person in London, drinking heavily and obviously suffering PTSD symptoms. He regularly visits a free-dinner line with other unfortunates, at which Sister Cristina, a Catholic nun, serves the meals [played by Agata Buzek, whom I don’t think I’ve seen before].
Both he and the sister are struggling, in quite different ways, to overcome past traumas. During the course of the movie they each reveal more of their past to each other, as well as their current struggles to overcome it.
Although this is about 17 years since his movie debut, Statham still can perform quite competently in fight scenes. There are several in the movie and they are well-done, but not unnecessarily gory. And though this is at least one-half action movie, there is no “chase scene” which is usually de rigeur for an action film. The other half is about their internal struggles and their gradually unfolding relationship. As for other “R” type material, there is some swearing, but a lot less than in the usual R-rated action film, and there's no female nudity (there are some black and white photographs depicting male nudity).
I give this film a B+, and am hoping it marks a redemption of Statham’s acting career. I hope he does many more serious films, like this one.