Every once in a while Jason Statham seems to remember that he’s British and stars in a movie in which he doesn’t have an explosive attached to his wrist or have to have sex in front of a cheering throng at a horse race. Not that he ever makes “Room with a View of a Lake and a Pond” movies. Hell no (although that would be interesting), he just makes action movies that happen to be British, like Roger Donaldson’s classy 2008 heist thriller The Bank Job, and now Blitz, a decent but unremarkable cop drama premiering on Blu-Ray this week courtesy of Lionsgate and Millennium.
When Edgar Wright made his British action cop comedy Hot Fuzz in 2007, he did so in response to the American trends in police stories, in which the protagonists are always disquietingly violent renegades who consider “proper police procedure” to be a “polite” suggestion from weasely bureaucrats. The humor came from showing how ridiculous many of these clichés are both in real life and in Britain in particular, where the police aren’t even allowed to carry guns. Blitz director Elliott Lester appears to have a similar idea in mind here, carrying many of those run-and-gun “You’re A Loose Cannon” clichés across the pond, but he does so without a hint of humor and irony. He’s curiously successful here – the film would work equally well on either side of the Pacific with relatively minor changes – but the film isn’t quite focused enough to stand up to the genre’s best and most popular offerings, like Serpico or, in what is probably more apt a comparison, Dirty Harry.
Statham plays Detective Sergeant Tom Brant (good manly name there), who’s under fire for beating a gang of “innocent” Hoodies (hooligans, to the uninitiated American audiences) with a hurling stick (how British, or rather Irish) after they tried to steal a car. But that level of police brutality is thrown in his face when a serial killer calling himself “Blitz” – as in “Blitzkrieg” – starts gunning down Brant’s fellow officers. Brant finds himself teaming up with his polar opposite, a stuffy homosexual officer played by acclaimed actor Paddy Considine of In America and (curiously) Hot Fuzz fame, to catch the madman on the loose. Meanwhile, Officer Elizabeth Falls (Zawe Ashton), one of Brant’s few legitimate friends, struggles with drug addiction after going deep undercover.
The cast is more than capable and Lester has a nice eye for pretty but subdued camera work, but the story flounders a bit because the subplots are competing for screen time rather than working in unison. The drug addicted WPC storyline feels like it belongs in an extended television series story arc, and despite a nice bit of acting from Zawe Ashton never feels particularly relevant to the larger serial killer storyline aside from a generalized effort to make the police world of Blitz feel more “hardcore” than the typical British film. Statham and Considine’s relationship feels like it should be the heart of the film – “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and all that – but aside from an initial distrust they actually get along swimmingly, forcing the rest of the film to rely on the “Blitz” storyline which isn’t terribly memorable as serial killer stories go.
Aiden Gillen of The Wire fame plays the titular villain, who is a little less threatening than this kind of bad guy usually is. Rather than go with the cold-blooded genius angle, Gillen’s serial killer is merely reasonably intelligent and enjoys his work a little too much, which makes him feel more amateurish at worst and, at best, more unpredictable than many of his villainous brethren. He’s good at covering his tracks but he’s basically little more than a thug with a particularly heated grudge against cops. The closest thing he has to an advantage over the heroes is an actual gun, and he spends large portions of the film riding his motor scooter through the streets with his pasty chest bared. Only his goal seems truly threatening, although Gillen – who played a more stereotypical bad guy in the underrated 12 Rounds – is clearly playing the curious hand he’s been dealt to the best of anybody’s abilities.
Blitz kriegs its way onto Blu-Ray with a solid transfer that captures the foggy look of Elliott Lester’s film and occasionally even provides glimpses of fine detail and striking color. For a cop film it’s relatively free of action sequences, so it won’t put your sound system through the ringer but it is still a nicely balanced presentation. Special Features are few but include interviews with the cast and crew (with the questions awkwardly cut out for some reason, making it a little difficult to keep up sometimes) and a fairly straightforward montage of behind the scenes footage. There are a few trailers at the front of the disc, but luckily they are skippable.
Without a truly brilliant or even genuinely mad villain, without a focus on the protagonists’ relationship and without a real point to speak of – except perhaps that police brutality has consequences (message received) – Blitz never quite steps out of the “better than average” category, but as a Straight-to-Video release it stands nicely above most of the competition. It's also better than The Transporter 3.
CRAVE Online Rating (Film): 6.5/10
CRAVE Online Rating (Blu-Ray): 7/10