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Jason Statham in the action thriller 'Safe'. (Lionsgate/John Baer)

If an aging Sean Connery, once he ditched his toupee, paved the way for making going bald look sexy, Jason Statham is turning the Scotsman’s path into a superhighway.

The British-born Statham, an Olympic diver turned action movie star, usually has far more stubble on his face than on his pate on screen. That’s the case in Safe, his latest bone-crunching action thriller, which opens today (April 26).

In the movie, a fun, fast romp in which fists, bullets and tough guy one-liners fly with equal abandon, Statham plays a former New York City cop (his British accent is never explained) who must protect a young Chinese girl in the Big Apple. Chinese and Russian gangsters, as well as corrupt cops, are all out to grab the kid.

Statham does his usual efficient job of whupping all comers, playing it cool and looking smashing once he puts on a well-cut jacket. He also offers up some choice, don’t-mess-with-me dialogue, as when a mob boss, taken aback at Statham’s  foolhardy daring in breaking into his office, compliments him on the size of his cojones. Our hero growls back, “Yeah, it’s amazing I can even walk.”

It was UK director Guy Ritchie who turned Statham into a movie actor by casting him in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) as a fast-talking con man. The fledgling actor had previously been an athlete – he was a member of the British national diving team for 12 years and placed 12th in the world championships in 1992. He was also a model.

The Transporter, a 2002 action film about a fellow who delivered risky packages, no questions asked, moved Statham into the big leagues as a star. The movie grossed $43 million worldwide but proved a strong seller on DVD, leading to a pair of sequels in 2005 and 2008.

While many of Statham’s two dozen films have lived up to the title of another of his big hits, The Expendables (2010), there are a few worth catching up with if you missed them at the multiplex. The best is The Bank Job, a 2008 crime caper set in London that’s based on a true story. The movie is smart, suspenseful and highly entertaining.

As Statham continues to crank out solid action films, he does only what he has to in terms of promoting them but otherwise maintains a low publicity profile. He sticks to a policy of not giving interviews longer than 15 minutes, whether print or TV, and refuses to discuss his personal life (he is known to have been involved with English model Kelly Brook and currently is dating Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, another English model).

Up next, he stars with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Jet Li in The Expendables 2, and then in Parker, which is slated to open next year.

“Great script, great characters,” he said of the latter film, which is based on a Donald Westlake crime novel, in an interview in late 2011.  “And that’s the direction I really want to go in now. Thinking-man’s action, you know?”


What’s your favorite Jason Statham movie? 


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By Leah Rozen