Twenty years ago, Blitz would’ve been a somewhat strange but mostly typical entry in a particularly fascist (and popular) strain of the action film. This kind of movie, especially popular from the 1970s through the ’90s, followed a determined, steadfast cop—or two, if it’s a buddy story—as he, unburdened by highfalutin ideas like due process, spit in the face of an ineffectual bureaucracy by mowing down a bunch of drug dealin’ or child- or wife-killin’ bad guys, usually destroying half the film’s locale in the process. To say that the good guy’s macho self-entitlement was ultimately justified is to state the supremely obvious.
Except that that this film hardly exists any longer, having been replaced, in American territories at least, by a model more insidiously marketed toward children, and thus making it, in my book, even less defensible: the superhero film. So Blitz, the new direct-to-DVD Jason Statham movie, initially packs a little more punch than it normally would, as it allows us children of the 1980s a brief trip down memory lane to a time when trash was also expressly and obviously made for adults.
Blitz is the kind of movie where a worn-down police chief asks his hothead superstar cop—who, of course, has the highest arrest rate in the precinct—to “cool it until this media shitstorm blows over.” It’s also the kind of movie where the killer is so entirely feral and despicable (and, more offensively, somewhat feminine and/or ambiguous in his sexual preference—a major holdover from the 1980s action film) as to steer the story clear of challenging a viewer’s response to the mayhem perpetrated by the hero. Blitz is also the kind of film, once again of course, that features a hero haunted by past traumas that implicatively justify all ensuing bloodshed.
In short, hokum, slackly directed by Elliot Lester, but there’s quite a bit of talent in front of the camera. Statham is the steadfast Brant, and he once again proves that he’s quiet a bit more of an actor than his roles usually allow; he has a dryly self-amused line delivery that recalls Steve McQueen if the latter had a bit of Bruce Willis’s flair for comedy. (Sadly, the film doesn’t give Statham much in the way of actual action sequences, which is where his performances are usually at their cleverest and most expressive.) Playing Brant’s obligatory odd partner is the intensely gifted Paddy Considine, who manages to embody a staid caricature—the queer among the manly men—with an unusual amount of conviction and grace. As Serial Killer Whose Recesses of Evil Know No Bounds, Aidan Gillen attempts admirably to further Gary Oldman’s collection of flamboyantly off-kilter mad men, while Zawe Ashton contributes a memorable bit as a police officer with demons of her own.
Ashton’s role is indicative of a few of the unusual and welcome touches that help to deflate Blitz’s potential for pompousness. The killer’s motivation turns out to be a reaction to Brant’s impulsive brand of law enforcement, while Brant’s fellow officers’ are poignantly established as being desperate, tormented and lonely—byproducts of a chosen lifestyle that baffles them. As a result, Blitz occasionally flirts with having its cake and eating it too—embodying a vigilant action film that vaguely addresses the futility and chaos of destroying someone in anger, or even by necessity.
Ultimately, though, Blitz is a kind of boring nice try. The morality, despite the occasional reach for ambiguity, is cut and tried, and the plot is an endless collection of grotesqueries meant to mask a scenario that was ripe for parody more than two decades ago. Blitz, in short, is just weird and promising enough to inspire resentment of its shortcomings.
The image and sound are perfunctory: This is clearly a rushed release of a little-seen film meant to capitalize on the fame of its star. The image is grainy and vague, with an occasional dark orange hue that may or may not be the fault of the film’s makers. The sound is passable, but undistinguished and imprecise.
The cast and crew interviews are dull even by the standards of supplementary DVD interviews. The actors seem distracted, as if they’d rather be elsewhere, spouting lame generalities about the roles they’ve been assigned. (Jason Statham and Paddy Considine seem a little more present than the others, and the former’s determination to return to a British-based role is touching). The making-of featurette is just as typical, offering a brief glimpse of the filming of a few of the key scenes. Plus the trailer.
An occasionally strange B-action programmer gets an indifferent American DVD transfer.