So I like a dark story…I can always grab onto a story that involves a bit of right and wrong, and people struggling to understand themselves and how or why they are where they are and who they are, and what they are going to do about it. If they need to change or adapt in some way – the journey is always interesting…or at least it’s supposed to be.
On the run from a military court martial, a damaged ex-special forces soldier (Jason Statham), navigating the criminal underworld, seizes an opportunity to assume another man’s identity. Bent over a friend’s murder, he will risk everything to find the killer and enforce his own form of justice.
Joey Jones (Jason Statham) is existing in a world of cardboard boxes for shelter, alcohol and drugs for comfort, and Isabel for staying human. After enduring a shake down and beating in the alley, Joey is advised to not fight back by Isabel and while the beating commences, Isabel is advised to run by Joey. Already it’s interesting – “Don’t fight back” – why not? This is a Jason Statham movie after all???!!! I like this already. He takes as much as he can handle before getting away hiding from his attacker by breaking into a rooftop window and falling into a vacant apartment. First thing is first – he finds a bottle of vodka to get him through the night. Joey realizes the apartment will be left unoccupied for several months…he goes through the pile of mail at the door and finds a new debit card to which he matches the pin from another letter. And we’re off!
Joey helps himself to the bank account, buys drugs and visits his “angel” sister Christina giving her a wad of cash to buy something nice for herself. Suffering from PTSD Joey has hallucinations of hummingbirds flying around him in the apartment. We see flashbacks of the soldier Joey Jones. The only survivor of an attack. We see Jones attempting retribution, while we hear the surveillance in a chaotic attempt to identify the soldier and uncover what he is doing. We know he’s on the run from a court martial – there will be no forgiveness. Sister Christina debates over what to do with the money, a charitable donation on behalf of the soldier, but in the end she buys a box seat for herself at the ballet.
Just as I was wondering what is taking Joey so long to look for Isabel, and shouldn’t he be finding her and bringing her to the apartment…just what is the relationship here…he decides to put himself back together. He gives up the booze, begins eating right and exercising, while working as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant. Joey put up posters for Isabel to call him, and she does eventually…she says she just wants to earn enough money to get back up north. Well, we know that’s not going to happen. Joey spies on his ex wife/girlfriend (don’t know if we know the nature of the relationship) and his daughter. Now we know there is even more going on for Joey.
I like these characters. Gritty. Real. Life is tough. So many struggles tearing at their existence…not pretty…not perfect. We don’t get to delve too deeply, but we get a sense life has not been easy for a long time. Through trying to find Isabel, Joey has asked Sister Christina for help from her connections to the police, and this is basically what starts a “relationship” between the two. Though there is more they want from each other…but they don’t know it yet.
Joey gets promoted from his job as dishwasher and bouncer to driver/muscle for the boss. What is interesting in the whole transaction is Jones is basically silent. He stands at ease while awaiting orders. This is the soldier finding use for his skills, waiting to be deployed. The boss talks about his “little shit” son who doesn’t want to follow in the family business and prefers working in advertising. Joey soon starts stacking money in the freezer. He is at ease doing the dirty work, but the dirty money gets turned into good deeds. He sends food to the shelter. He puts a wad of money in the hands of his daughter’s mother after a gut wrenching scene in which we learn Jones has been an absent father. And he buys Christina the red dress.
This is about the time in a blow sunshine up your arse movie that Joey and Christina fall in love and live happily ever after. Not to be. Isabel is murdered. Christina maintains the only reason she agreed to meet Joey for his makeshift bbq dinner is to bring him the news that Isabel was found in the river, and to return the money he gave her. Emotion boils over for Joey. Such a tense and emotional scene…I don`t care what people say about Jason Statham he`s not a wooden actor. Joey brutally confronts the shakedown ally goons for information on Isabel`s killer. Joey invites Christina to a gallery exhibiting photographs that the owner of the apartment was invited to so he can relay the information through Christina to the police. Christina arrives in the red dress. What happens for the two characters is a bit of an emotional whirl-wind. The killer`s description is paramount on their minds, but there is the red dress. On top of all the shit that is piling up around them is the red dress. Christina gets a little drunk and then the kiss happens; like the red dress – it means so much and so little at the same time.
You know there is not going to be a happy ending. Fleeting moments of what could be happiness, are sunk by what is dragging each character down. We learn of the sex abuse Christina suffered as a young girl from a gymnastic coach. Christina killed him and she was sent to a convent. Yet she didn`t even want to be a gymnast – she wanted to be a ballerina. Her father forced her to take up gymnastics instead. Christina has asked for a placement in Africa which will see her leave London the day after the ballet. Joey finds the name of Isabel`s killer after he completes a job that no one wants to do; He counts the smuggled girls who arrived alive in a shipping container for the boss. Presumably girls brought in for sex trade. Joey is at least appalled that he held the hand of one very young girl…perhaps reminding him of his own daughter.
The climax is building as the countdown begins to October 1st; the day Joey will confront Isabel`s killer, and the day Christina will see her life-long idol in the ballet. Joey invites Christina to take photographs of him to give to his daughter. When questioned about why he wants to leave photographs of him looking like a good man, Joey responds that he won`t look like this for much longer. In ending her crazy patch Christina invites Joey to have sex with her. In quite a comical scene the owner of the apartment arrives home and is not able to get in. He peeps through the mail slot to see christina and joey collecting their belongings and running out before getting caught. Joey asks Christina to take the money and run with him. Christina invites him to the ballet. Ah, what might have been…
Joey visits his daughter briefly…giving over the bag of money she should give to her mum, and the envelope of photos for her. It is touching that he asked to hold her hand for just a minute. She doesn`t even know who Joey is. He fully intends on not getting away with what he is about to do. Christina waits for Joey at the ballet, and realizes he`s not coming, meanwhile, Joey is on the rooftop at a swanky party waiting to unleash hell on Isabel`s killer. It still shocked me (even though we saw what happened in the trailer) that Joey confronted the killer and spewed `you should know what it`s like to be down there`as he heaved him over the edge to his death. Wow. Joey doesn`t get caught as everyone is in shock, he grabs a bottle off the bar and takes off. Drunk and passed out on the street, Joey is met by Christina who is waiting to catch a glimpse of her idol as she makes her way to the car well after everyone in attendance has departed. They are basically alone as Joey confesses just exactly what he had done in Afghanistan to warrant a court martial. They killed five of ours, so I killed five of theirs. Christina doesn`t offer anything but lending an ear. She watches her ballet dancer depart. What different paths these two might have had…
The end sees Christina receiving a letter from Joey before she departs for Africa, along with some of her photographs of him. For one summer I was alive again. CCTV picks up Joey, identifies him and sends in police to apprehend…somehow I don`t think he`s going to fight back.
I loved this movie and it`s dark not shiny beautiful characters. The reviews were not very favourable but I thought there were some very moving scenes. As a whole perhaps it lacked a little something, but touching on so many different things the characters were dealing with was ambitious. There is no redemption. Neither character is looking for redemption. Broken people with fleeting moments of space to breathe and feel human. Just as I suspected, I want to watch this movie over and over.