Joey Smith (Statham) is a homeless veteran nursing a drug habit with his friend Isabel. When they’re attacked, he escapes and falls through a skylight into the empty apartment of a rich man. Joey builds a new life and sets out to find Isabel, with the help of a friendly nun (Buzek).
This was supposed to be the film that showed us Jason Statham was more than an action star and Steven Knight was more than a much-praised screenwriter. Unfortunately, a strangely on-the-nose script and a succession of unlikely developments means that it doesn’t even live up to the best of Statham’s more brainless fare, let alone Knight’s best screenplays to date.
It’s not that Statham is bad; he’s clearly straining to show another side here, toning down his previously unstoppable action hero to a more fallible scale and giving a sense of the weight of violence on his shoulders. While it’s a little hard to believe that such a capable warrior would decline quite so far, the film eventually explains why his life might fall apart and why he might rebuild it as he does. The problem is that it can’t decide from one moment to the next whether he’s a badass or a bruised mess.
Rather than blending the realism of Knight’s London with a heightened story — as, say, his Eastern Promises managed — this swerves between reality and fantasy without quite convincing as either. The decision to make a love interest of a nun stinks of melodrama, and while Knight does his best to give Agata Buzek’s Sister Cristina a compelling backstory and her own character, stacking such an improbable affair on top of the story’s other implausibilities challenges the suspension of disbelief.
Occasionally, the film seems to slip into a groove — the Statham-standard quest to track down the missing Isabel drives it for a while, and later the tentative love story with Cristina briefly gives it its impetus — but the needle always jumps to another track. There are traces of brave and interesting ideas here, but ironically it’s Knight’s script that fails to tie them together and leaves the director and his cast struggling to pull a coherent story from the mess.
An awkward mix of realist social drama and Statham actioner, this doesn’t quite convince as either. A disappointing start to Knight’s directing career.