REVIEW: Blitz [2011]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 97 minutes | Release Date: May 20th, 2011 (UK)
Studio: Lionsgate
Director(s): Elliott Lester
Writer(s): Nathan Parker / Ken Bruen (novel)

“Do I look like I carry a pencil?”

With a name like Blitz and the surly visage of Jason Statham on its poster, one would expect this British flick to be an action-packed romp with little plausibility. Surprisingly, however, Elliott Lester’s film is a straightforward criminal thriller using its star’s penchant for brutality as merely a character trait rather than a lifestyle. Hotheaded, temperamental, and never one to follow authority too closely, Statham is on the right side of the law this time. A Detective Sergeant going by the name of Tom Brant, his maneuverings to find a cop killer are actually rooted in police work and not back alley brawls. In fact, besides giving a trio of hoodies their comeuppance and partaking in a footrace through traffic, you’ll be surprised they even bothered casting this action hero in the first place.

To be honest, while Statham is a guilty pleasure of mine, it isn’t because of his acting. I understand the desire to put someone of his ilk in such a role that exists to be formidable on and off duty, but to inhabit the world screenwriter Nathan Parker and source novelist Ken Bruen have created is above his skill set. While the ass kicking is top-notch, the brooding and sarcastic smirks entertaining, and the tough-as-nails demeanor perfectly menacing, the rest is lacking. These shortcomings are only made more obvious when juxtaposed next to Paddy Considine’s interim Chief Inspector Porter Nash. A man half the size of Statham and unnecessarily written as gay containing a fire able to instill fear? It’s not something you take lightly. So, once I discovered Nash’s ‘good cop’ façade as just that, I began to wonder what a guy like Tom Hardy could have done—an actor with nuance along with the physique—by his side.

Alas, this is not what’s given, so we make due. We push aside the trouble spots and try to believe our usual Hollywood badass is one of the good guys for a change. Watching him take down three car-thieving punks with a hurley and listening to his corny one-liners at the start does give a false sense of what his character will bring to the table, though. But it isn’t long before we see his sensitive side as he accompanies his boss (Mark Rylance) to the man’s wife’s cremation. A softer moment that catches you off-guard after the initial violence, it becomes a good barometer for what’s to come. Because besides a couple instances of bad blood boiling over, Blitz is at its core a procedural cat and mouse game. Quiet moments of contemplation and detective work exist instead of Statham knocking down doors and torturing people for answers.

As such, we see him and Considine forge an unlikely bond; WPC Elizabeth Falls (Zawe Ashton)—a former addict due to undercover work—attempting to shake her past to past it; and reporter Harold Dunphy (David Morrissey) receiving calls from the killer to spice up his exclusives. These disparate threads are later interwoven, but until than seem like a whole lot of disjointed, superfluous information. Why does Considine’s Nash have to be gay and ridiculed? Just to make his kinship with Statham seem stronger because it’s unexpected? Why do we care about Ashton’s past, her current love life, or the young informant she’s looking after? Who cares what a reporter has to say about a murder spree we are watching happen? These questions and more ran through my head and even though I know now how it all fits together, I still wonder how much was necessary.

Luckily, though, despite the personal lives of detectives filling the void left by a film which doesn’t really need police work, we have the titularly nicknamed criminal to watch play. Since we see every murder first hand, we don’t exactly need the suspense of Statham solving the crime to get the target off the police’s backs. We’re instead able to sit back and watch a mad man go crazy, his identity discovered on the initial inquiry less than twenty-five minutes in no less. But when Nash and Brant knock on the door of Barry Weiss (Aidan Gillen), it is only to put a face to a name. There’s nothing but an unreliable snitch’s (Ned Dennehy) word and an offhand comment about killing police dogs as ‘practice’. So while we know they were standing face to face with the man who killed two officers point blank, they only see a manic wackjob who was once assaulted in a pool hall by Statham years ago.

We never really allow ourselves to doubt whether he’ll be caught—this result is inevitable considering his discovery so soon. So rather than get bogged down in the process, we are allowed to enjoy the journey. We tolerate Ashton’s side plot date with the officer (Luke Evans) assigned to a case involving her informant because she plays the recovering junkie well; we accept the back and forth between Considine and Statham because it’s cute, even if we wish heart-pounding action choreography was flashing across the screen instead; and we all but forget Morrissey was even in the film until an obnoxiously stupid epilogue reminds us. We do all this because despite the bloated script sinking what is a pretty nifty little crime spree, the homicidal maniac at its center is absolutely spectacular.

Completely against type, the smooth-talking Tommy Carcetti from “The Wire” plays sadistic with flair. Gillen’s ‘Blitz’ is a sick individual without remorse or concept of danger, walking up to cops in broad daylight to pull the trigger. It’s all a game to him with victims who aren’t chosen as randomly as it seems at first glance. Always careful to turn cameras away, cover his face, and hide evidence, his excitement and yearning for more become his downfall. But even as mistakes mount and a guy as dumb as Dennehy’s informant can figure out his secret, confidence never wanes and Weiss keeps going. The murders committed are gruesome, his complete disrespect for life is comical, and his twitchy mannerisms are a delight to watch in the background. So, with the gifts that make Statham a fun action commodity all but missing, it is Gillen’s over-the-top villain who keeps Blitz afloat. It’s not nearly enough to save it, but just enough to warrant a peek.

courtsey of Blitz’s Facebook

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