REDEMPTION (2013) – Decent Drama for Action Star Jason Statham

Streaming Video Review:  REDEMPTION (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

Jason Statham is one of the best action movie actors working today, even if his movies tend to gravitate towards the familiar. 

 Redemption poster

The good news for Statham fans is that REDEMPTION (2013), Statham’s latest movie, which is now available on streaming video, tweaks this familiar pattern, as it’s less of an action film and more of a dark drama.  And Statham is just as enjoyable here in a role that gives him more to do than just beat up on people. 

 

The bad news for Statham fans is the movie’s plot doesn’t always hold water.

 

In REDEMPTION, Joey (Jason Statham) is a former Special Forces soldier who has dropped off the radar in an attempt to elude a military court martial.  While serving in Afghanistan, Joey’s unit was ambushed and killed, and in retaliation, Joey took vengeance upon innocent civilians.

 

Joey is now homeless and living on the streets of London.  But just when things seem to have hit rock bottom for him, Joey finds himself inside an apartment belonging to a man who’s away for the summer.  Joey decides to secretly live inside the apartment, using it as an opportunity to get his life back.

 

He befriends a young nun Cristina (Agata Buzek) who runs a soup kitchen, and she promises to help Joey locate his missing girlfriend.  Sadly, Cristina discovers that the girlfriend has been murdered, and Joey decides to seek out the killer.  Joey also finds work as an enforcer for a gangster named Mr. Choy (Benedict Wong).  Joey uses his earnings from breaking people’s heads on Mr. Choy’s behalf to give back to his homeless buddies, delivering items like pizza and Chinese food to Cristina’s soup kitchen.  What a thoughtful guy!

 

Joey and Cristina eventually become involved in a relationship, and as their romance deepens, Joey closes in on his former girlfriend’s killer.  Ultimately, he has to make the decision between pursuing his relationship with Cristina and pursuing his former girlfriend’s killer, all the while eluding the authorities who are after him.

 

REDEMPTION is a nicely acted thriller that works surprisingly well in spite of a plot that flirts with absurdity at times, and if not for the convincing performances of the two leads, Statham and Buzek, I wouldn’t have bought the half of it.

 

The script by writer/director Steven Knight isn’t going to win any awards for most credible screenplay.

 

For example, Statham’s Joey sets up shop in the abandoned apartment so easily you’d think his name was on the lease.  He conveniently discovers the keys to the apartment, and he finds the owner’s bank card and pin number in the mail, giving him access to the man’s bank account.  I guess the guy, who’s gone for the summer, forgot to have his mail held.  How convenient for Joey!  This man also doesn’t notice the large sum of money withdrawn from his account.  This is all possible, of course, but not very credible.

 

Then there’s the relationship between Joey and Cristina.  Statham and Buzek share a decent amount of chemistry and I liked them both, easily believing that they had feelings for each other.  However, as refreshing as the two actors make this relationship, it’s still rather bizarre.  Cristina is a nun, and yet here she is involved with Joey, and she only appears mildly troubled by this development, but as a nun, shouldn’t she be really troubled?   

 

Granted, later on we do learn more about Cristina’s background and the reason she became a nun in the first place, which does explain perhaps why she might not be the most faithful religious, so this helps, but for the most part, Cristina’s character is not clearly defined.  Is she having a difficult time being a nun?  Is she seeking this relationship because of a lack of faith?  Is Joey so hot a catch she can’t resist him?  Is this relationship causing her angst?  I wanted to know these things, but the film doesn’t satisfactorily explain them.

 

And I’m not so sure I completely bought Joey’s “Robin Hood” act.  He’s a little too selfless for my tastes.  I mean, he makes a point of sharing his earnings with his former homeless buddies, with Cristina’s soup kitchen, with Cristina herself, buying her things like a new dress, and with his ex-wife and young daughter.  How nice can this guy be?

 

REDEMPTION doesn’t really have much of a villain either.  Mark Forrester (Christian Brassington), the man who murdered Joey’s former girlfriend, is the main bad guy, but he isn’t really in the movie all that much and doesn’t make a huge impression when he is.  This bothered me less than usual, since REDEMPTION is more a character study of Joey and Cristina than an action tale in need of a strong villain.

 

And it’s on this level that REDEMPTION worked for me.  I enjoyed the performances by the two leads, Jason Statham and Agata Buzek.  Statham stood out because it was a change of pace for him.  Sure, he’s still a tough guy, a walking assassination machine, but there’s much more going on emotionally with Joey than what we usually see with a Jason Statham character, and Statham handles the extra depth with relative ease.

 

Agata Buzek was probably my favorite part of this film because she was such a unique leading lady.  She’s not your typical glamour beauty.  She has a look to her that is quite different, refreshing, and still very sexy. 

 

Director Steven Knight has made a slick-looking, solid if unremarkable thriller.  I can’t say that any scenes truly stood out, suspense, action, or otherwise, but with two very strong leads in Statham and Buzek, it all seems to work.

 

I’ve been a Jason Statham fan for a while now.  Compared to his other recent films, REDEMPTION falls somewhere in the middle.  I enjoyed the over-the-top fun of PARKER (2013) and THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), the grittiness of BLITZ (2011), and the plot twists of KILLER ELITE (2011) better, but REDEMPTION was more satisfying than the sloppy and weakly plotted SAFE (2012).

 

REDEMPTION is not a knockout by any means, but it is a decent drama that provides solid entertainment, even if its road to redemption Robin Hood story doesn’t always ring true.

 

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