On a hot July day in 1967, in the small town of Shirebrook – sometimes referred to as the ‘Nazareth of the East Midlands’ – a momentous occasion occurred. A boy named Jason Statham was born. Possibly in a manger. The world – specifically the world of stunt-based action movies requiring vaguely English accents from their leading men – was never the same. To mark the 49th anniversary of this world-changing occasion, Empire has lovingly assembled fifteen of the greatest moments from the man we like to call The Stath. Best viewed while grimacing.
1. Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels – the street sale
Sure, The Stath began his career in earnest as a diver, gymnast and model, but he was truly announced to the world in Guy Ritchie’s swaggering cock-er-nee gangster favourite. Honestly, with his charm, good looks, and gift-of-the-gab, he could attempt to sell us our own body parts and we'd happily pay a premium. We’d probably offer a tip.
2. Crank – the mall car chase
Crank could be The Stath’s finest hour. It’s a perfectly formed and knowingly absurd action movie with a simple, perfect premise: The Stath needs constant adrenaline. Or he’ll die. It's Peak The Stath. The casual way he blasts through this shopping mall, á la The Blues Brothers, elegantly sets up the movie with as much destruction as possible.
3. The Expendables – the slam dunk
“Your life... I was thinking about taking it,” says The Stath to a basketball-playing thug who’s been messing with his best girl. A fight ensues, naturally, but it’s really all a setup for another witticism – one that Wilde, Wodehouse or Voltaire would be proud of: “Next time, I’ll deflate all your balls.”
4. Spy – the outlandish claims
As is so often his wont, The Stath routinely steals the show in Spy – never more so than in this unforgettable scene, in which he delivers increasingly bold claims with a deadpan scowl. “I’ve swallowed enough microchips and shit them back out again to make a computer.” From any other actor, this might have sounded far-fetched.
5. Snatch – Ze Germans
In this oft-quoted scene – which would inadvertently inspire the ‘banter’ of a generation of unfortunate young men – The Stath skewers his co-star Stephen Graham with dry sarcasm, impeccable timing, and his patented frown. Tip top.
6. The Expendables 2 – the one-liner
“I now pronounce you... man and knife.” It’s one of the most endearingly crap puns ever uttered in action cinema. It doesn’t even make any sense. There isn’t any good reason why The Stath is dressed as a priest, or even really why the baddies have congregated in a church. Except to set up that pun. And, frankly, with puns like that, who needs a reason?
7. Fast & Furious 7 – the hospital bedside manner
As we see here, The Stath has no patience for hospital visiting hours.
8. Transporter 3 – the bike chase
The Stath is not merely confined to four wheels. He is just as good on two. In a standout scene from this mostly terrible Transporter sequel, The Stath somehow manages to outpace a car on a BMX – and manages to do some sweet, definitely-not-showing-off tricks along the way.
9. Fast & Furious 7 – the spanner fight
“You thought this was gonna be a street fight?” barks Vin Diesel. “You’re goddamnned right it is.” And as everyone who grew up on the streets knows all too well, street fights almost always involve two large bald middle-aged men going at it with a couple of massive spanners in a multi-storey car park.
10. War – the final fight
Ever fond of rusty oversized tools, this forgettable romp sees The Stath and Jet Li go toe-to-toe with a garden spade and a sledgehammer, respectively. This is a man never more dangerous than when let loose in a local branch of B&Q.
11. Collateral – the cameo
Wait a minute...The Stath was in Collateral? Yes. Yes he was. The Stath was in Collateral.
12. Crank: High Voltage – the taser
In this exponentially farcical sequel, The Stath uses a policeman’s taser to his advantage, after being inadvertently fitted with an artificial heart which requires constant electronic charge. Do tase me, bro?
13. The Transporter – the grease fight
In one of many balletically-choreographed fight scenes from Luc Besson’s Transporter series, The Stath finds himself backed into a corner by a couple of goons, who grab at his clothes. Handily, The Stath uses this unexpected disrobing as a self-defence tactic and a nifty opportunity to show off his hot bod. Then he greases himself up and wears bike pedals for shoes. This is vintage The Stath, folks.
14. The Tonight Show – the slap fight
In a landmark moment for late night television, The Stath plays blackjack with Jimmy Fallon in which the loser gets slapped by a giant prosthetic hand – an encounter historians later described as “the Frost/Nixon of the 21st century”.
15. Esquire magazine – the toy train
For a 2015 cover feature, Esquire magazine chose to photograph The Stath on a little toy train. The tangible poetry of the image is beyond doubt. The grimace. The confusion. The knees up by his ears. The face that says, “Oi! Mate! Do you mind? I’m trying to drive this toy train ‘ere!” It is perfect. It is a visual masterpiece. It should hang in the Smithsonian. It is, perhaps, the essence of Stath.
Jason Statham can next be seen in Mechanic: Resurrection, due in cinemas August 26.