Saturday, December 28, 2013

Instant Action: Hummingbird (Redemption, 2013)

I'm not sure that this film understands what it means to be a good man...

Screenplay By: Steven Knight
Directed By: Steven Knight

Continuing my desire to use this column to seek out the work of action stars this week I bring you Jason Statham. I've rarely seen Mr. Statham outside of a Guy Ritchie film, and that appears to have been a mistake on my part. I really did not like Mr. Statham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch.. While I enjoyed In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale that wasn't due to it, or Mr. Statham, being great in the traditional sense. Hummingbird offers a different take on Mr. Statham, at least a different take from his work with Guy Ritchie. In Hummingbird Mr. Statham is a presence, he owns the screen. Charm isn't the right word, it somewhat applies, but not completely. There's just something about Mr. Statham that the camera loves. The best explanation I can come up with is that the way he carries himself intoxicates the camera. Mr. Statham exerts himself upon the film, his presence overrides the film in ways that it really shouldn't. That's presence, and that's something Mr. Statham has in spades in Hummingbird.

Hummingbird excels visually, and in its action scenes. The visuals are, well, gorgeous, but not too gorgeous. Cinematographer Chris Menges makes terrific use of the claustrophobic nature of the British underworld. Everyone knows everyone and the camera placement of Mr. Menges accentuates how close together the citizens of London's underworld live. There's a grimy feel to the work of Mr. Menges, for all the visual flare he provides Hummingbird with he allows the film to have a more lived in texture. The director, Steven Knight, focuses on the hands of his characters a lot, further adding to the textured feel of the film. This plays out even more in the action scenes where the fighting dynamic is one of brutal violence that seeks to end the fight quick. The action in Hummingbird isn't that of the dance, rather it's that of the car hitting the wall. Fancy moves are replaced by strikes intended to maim and end the fight in the swiftest fashion. So much action is based on the beauty of the dance that is fight choreography, and in that respect the quick and efficient action of Hummingbird felt very different.

Where I have trouble with Hummingbird is in the theme of the film. The story is fine enough, a simple sort of man against internal/external demons sort of fable. The script delivered by Mr. Knight is looking for something more than that simple tale though. That's where I think the film trips up, because I'm not sure Mr. Knight really knows what he wants his film to say. At times it feels like Hummingbird is going for a Robin Hood correlation. Then it will seem as if the film is acknowledging the fact that the protagonist is no better than the people he is fighting against. But, then the film will play up the actions of Joey, Mr. Statham, as those of a man of principle who deserves the respect of the viewer. It felt as if Mr. Knight could never come to grips with the Joey character and instead of a focused character he left one on the screen who is quite muddled. This, of course, leads to a muddled main theme. Th drive of said theme is never able to gain inertia because the dueling nature of the Joey character often works against the thematic drive of the film.

Mr, Knight's film makes for a very interesting watch. The film is confused about what it wants to be, at least that's the case in terms of its theme. Hummingbird works just fine as an action film, but the added drama muddies the water of the films intentions. I'm not convinced that's entirely a bad thing though, because the lack of focus displayed by the film is one of the films most interesting aspects. Jason Statham has become a big action star, and after Hummingbird I can see why. The film takes full advantage of the package that is Jason Statham, and that's one of the reasons why Hummingbird is an interesting film worth checking out.



Bill Thompson

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