By Emily C. Reubush
The latest in a long line of Jason Statham vehicles, ‘Hummingbird’ opens with grainy footage of military drones over Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, with nearly unintelligible radio chatter in English and American accents announcing there has been an ambush. There is chaos, confusion, an explosion, then the scene melts to one of London, peering down into the streets from a police helicopter and hearing radio transmissions tell the story of a man’s escape from a military hospital.
We drop to an alleyway where two thugs are rustling through a small community of the homeless. A young woman is awoken in a box and begs her partner not to fight back just before the two of them emerge into the wintry air and even colder embrace of the attackers. At this point, our modern British action hero is nearly unrecognisable – both because he has more hair than we’ve ever seen him with, and that he gets pummelled. He does, however, put up enough of a fight that his friend is able to get away.
A slow-moving chase ensues, and ends with Joey (Statham) dropping into an empty apartment via an unlocked window. He seems to make himself comfortable: having a drink, taking a shower and picking out clothes before finding a recently delivered credit card in a pile of mail. Back out on the street he withdraws a wad of cash and stumbles about with a new bottle, tumbling into a man selling maps who repeatedly intones ‘anybody lost or needs direction’ before twirling with a drunken girl whose boyfriend is less than pleased. The challenge flashes him back to Afghanistan, then sends him lurching to a familiar soup line manned by one thin, plain nun. After asking about his boxmate, he hands the sister his cash and tells her to buy something nice for herself before stumbling off again.
I’ve been a fan of Statham from the beginning, since his 1998 debut in ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and especially his follow-up in ‘Snatch’ in 2000, both directed by Guy Ritchie. He cut an impressive figure in 2002’s ‘The Transporter’ (when, by the way, I fell in love with the idea of being an expat), but after his 2004 role as Handsome Rob the getaway driver in ‘The Italian Job’, he seemed to reprise these last two roles repeatedly in any film with a hard-core one word title (‘Revolver’, ‘Crank’, ‘War’, ‘Chaos’) and that was when I lost interest. Since this film (titled ‘Redemption’ in some markets) seemed to fall into that category, I honestly did not have high expectations.
But here’s the thing: there’s more to Statham’s role in this film than just a pretty boy with an accent who can drive fast and pull off heart-pounding hand-to-hand combat. We see from the beginning, in Joey’s concern for his friend, his increasing charity toward Sister Cristina (Agata Buzek) and the homeless she works with, his concern that he be seen as ‘a good man’. He does bad things to be sure, but never do we lose sight of his emotional turmoil over them, and so his inherent goodness.
There are moments of cliché (shadow-boxing in a hoodie on a rooftop after he decides to ‘clean himself up’), some important topics (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Human Trafficking), but none of these interfere to make the film overly taxing. You won’t leave the cinema in tears, but this thankfully-more-than-a-popcorn-movie will give you more than just an adrenaline rush. And, if you’re at all like me, leave you with hope for Jason Statham’s own Redemption.