The interesting thing about this week didn’t happen in film per se; it was the announcement of Viva La Madness, a TV series set as a sequel to the Daniel Craig vehicle Layer Cake. He’ll step into the Craig role, of course, as Statham will find himself continuing that protaganist’s tale. This time he’ll wind up in the Caribbean, lured back into the drug trade after properly retiring at the end of the film.
It’s not shocking that Craig won’t be returning in the role, as he’s still James Bond for the foreseeable future, but it is shocking (at least on the surface) that Statham is lowering himself to a television series at this point. Statham has been cinema’s biggest action movie star, almost by default, because there have been very few action movie stars to properly inhabit cinema for the past decade or so. There’s a reason why Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone have gotten films into theaters still; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is about the only other actor who regularly gets action films into theaters and even then he’s been sporadic. Only recently has Johnson been a bankable star, to boot.
Action films in America are now super hero and comic book films, to be fair, and Statham going to television is a tacit admission that his drawing power as a cinema star is predicated on the handful of franchises he’s been involved in. Outside of The Transporter and The Expendables his box office powers are not much better than Steven Seagal’s have been. The lack of his presence doomed the latest Transporter, as well, because for better or worse that’s his franchise to carry. Statham is no longer in the same spot that Seagal found himself around Hard to Kill; he’s no longer the new, fresh face of action films that he was around the time The Italian Job came out.
In other words … Jason Statham is a couple flops away from jumping into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Iron Fist to get a hit on his hands.
Statham signing onto a television series is something that would’ve been beneath him several years ago and now it’s something appropriate for him. The one downside of taking on as many films as he’s had, as Statham is one of the busier actors of his status, is that with so many failing (or landing direct to video) is that it’s hard to consider him an action movie star anymore. He’s an actor who mainly does action roles now as his biggest hit of the past 12 months has been as the comic relief to Melissa McCarthy in Spy.
Viva La Madness becomes interesting in this aspect because it’s no longer a bold choice from Statham. During the peak of his Transporter fame this would’ve been something we look at as interesting because it had to be to lure someone like Statham to it. Statham around the time of The Italian Job was interesting because he had more diverse roles than “British martial artist” under his belt. It would’ve been something that would’ve taken his career in a different path because Statham had that new star smell to him still.
Now it looks desperate because there’s only so many direct to video films one can make before one permanently falls into the Steven Seagal, direct to the Wal-Mart discount bin level of credibility. And Statham is right on that line currently; he’s just good enough to have one or two films per year hit theaters but has a steady stream of DTV films as well. There’ll come a point when they’ll all go DTV and Statham will only show up in theaters if there’s another Expendables film, which is looking less and less likely these days.
Viva La Madness has a different connotation now then it would’ve even three years ago. Statham is now going from being on the fringes of Steven Seagal as opposed to the fringes of superstardom.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
The Green Inferno – Eli Roth is back with another awful horror film.
Skip it – It’s a horror film.
The Intern – Robert De Niro comes out of retirement to intern at Anne Hathaway’s start up.
See it – De Niro has slowly but surely been picking some decent roles as of late. This looks like it could be one of them.
Hotel Transylvania 2 – Adam Sandler and the Grown Ups cash some more checks.
See it – The original was endearing in an odd way, so it has enough cache to not be awful.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Jason Statham, Monday Morning Critic, Viva La Madness