Jason Statham may essentially do only one thing, but he does that one thing really well. Since debuting as part of the ensemble of street criminals in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 first feature "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," Statham has carved out a successful niche for himself as a tough, taciturn man of action — most recently in "The Beekeeper."
He’s parlayed that specific persona into ongoing roles in the long-running "Fast and Furious" and "Expendables" franchises, but Statham’s best work comes in smaller, standalone films that offer greater showcases for his talent.
Even within the confines of his particular set of skills, Statham has made movies that range from action comedy to gritty crime drama, all featuring his distinctive menacing glare and cockney accent. Here are five of the best Statham movies to stream right now.
Writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor really let Statham cut loose in this chaotic, over-the-top action movie. He plays Chev Chelios, a hitman who is double-crossed by his employer and injected with a slow-acting poison that will eventually stop his heart. In order to keep himself alive as he races across Los Angeles to seek revenge and find a possible antidote, he has to provide himself with continuous jolts of adrenaline.
That allows Neveldine and Taylor to put Chelios into a series of ridiculous situations, from frantic public sex with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) to snorting cocaine off a dirty bathroom floor. Statham is game for anything the filmmakers throw at him, and Crank works because he fully commits to all the stylized absurdity. It’s a pure distillation of action-movie mayhem.
Watch on Peacock
After playing supporting parts in several movies, Statham got his breakout lead role as the title character in this fast-paced action thriller produced and co-written by French genre specialist Luc Besson. Statham plays professional driver Frank Martin, who specializes in no-questions-asked transportation of illicit cargo. He breaks his own rules when he looks inside his latest package and discovers a kidnapped woman.
After his client attempts to have him killed, Frank teams up with Lai (Shu Qi), the woman he’d been hired to transport, to seek revenge and rescue a cargo container full of human trafficking victims. The plot is so flimsy that it might as well not exist, but the action scenes are creative and fun, courtesy of director Corey Yuen, a veteran of Hong Kong martial arts movies. Statham easily carries the movie via his charisma and athletic prowess.
Watch on Starz (via Prime Video)
'The Bank Job'
In terms of heist movies with “job” in the title, Statham has a minor role in the zippy, entertaining hit "The Italian Job," but he’s at the center of this more grounded period piece, based loosely on an actual 1971 London bank robbery. Statham’s Terry Leather is a small-time crook who’s approached with an offer that sounds too good to be true. His friend Martine (Saffron Burrows) tells him about an unguarded bank vault with hundreds of safe deposit boxes vulnerable to theft.
The reality is more complicated, involving clandestine operatives, government officials, and a range of underworld figures, all of whom have their own angles on what’s in those boxes. Statham plays Terry with steely determination and just the right amount of self-doubt, in a movie that is more focused on intricate planning and interpersonal tension than violent action.
Watch on Peacock
'Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre'
Statham has had a long and fruitful collaboration with director Guy Ritchie, and this lively, lightweight action movie is a highlight of their work together. Statham stars as the head of a team of covert operatives tracking down a stolen weapon that could, of course, lead to international war. The globe-trotting adventure is flashy, energetic nonsense, riffing on the James Bond and "Mission: Impossible" movies.
Statham gets to take the lead in a blockbuster-style caper that surpasses the actual blockbusters that relegate him to smaller roles. The movie features amusing one-liners and solid fight sequences, and the rest of the cast is clearly having a good time, too, especially Aubrey Plaza as a sarcastic tech expert and Hugh Grant as an egotistical billionaire.
Watch on Starz (via Prime Video)
Although Statham is known mainly as a grim, glowering action hero, that doesn’t mean that he lacks a sense of humor, and this Melissa McCarthy comedy gives him the chance to gleefully poke fun at his own image. He doesn’t even have to make many changes to his typical performance style, since putting a familiar Statham character opposite McCarthy’s bumbling CIA analyst offers plenty of natural comedic material.
After the death of her partner, McCarthy’s inexperienced Susan Cooper is forced to go into the field, over the objections of her tough-guy colleague Rick Ford (Statham). Susan eventually proves surprisingly adept at spycraft, while the overconfident Ford mainly gets in her way. Statham gets big laughs by playing it straight, and he lends some extra credibility to the “action” side of writer-director Paul Feig’s highly enjoyable action comedy.
Watch on Max
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Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and has written about movies and TV for Vulture, Inverse, CBR, Crooked Marquee and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.