Come for the carnage, stay for the intrigue in puzzling thriller

Come for the carnage, stay for the intrigue in puzzling thriller

English (A)¬¬¬
Director: Steven Knight
Starring: Jason Statham,
Agata Buzek,Vicky McClure

If Jason Statham has finally realised that all action stars die a slow, agonising death, then Hummingbird is his first, if half-hearted attempt to show that he, as an actor, has more range than a long-range bazooka.

A curious film which borders on the obscure, Hummingbird deals with the life of an army deserter, Joey Jones (Statham), who having escaped a military courtmartial, finds himself in London’s unforgiving backstreets. Once a gung-ho, bristling commando, he is now a pathetic, drug-addled figure who lives in a box, lonely and completely destitute save for a young girl, Isabel (Victoria Bewick), a part-time prostitute, fellow junkie and life companion.

When their quiet alley is invaded by street toughs looking for drugs and money, Jones attempts to defend Isabel from rape only to be beaten to a bloody pulp. Isabel manages to get away. But for Jones, the escape is harder. Yet, when he fortuitously lands in the swankiest, emptiest apartment in all of London (what are the odds?) — its wealthy owner away for seven months — Jones realises that he has a chance at redemption and a new lease on life.

While the story is meant to display the gradual self-rehabilitation of a hardened combat soldier, it is also a tale of  vulnerability, of a man torn from friends and family, seeking to move beyond the demons of his past.

It is also a story of stolen identity, mafia theatrics, carnage and most intriguingly, a love story, as Joey seeks to cavort with a nun suffering from a quiet, desperate loss of faith. It is as though the director, Steven Knight, realising that the cliched hollowness of his plot decided to upend every convention by using their mirror opposites, even if they bordered on the farcical.

If you happen to be confused by the many themes in this film, you are not the only one. I had the feeling that much of the audience in the theatre had come to see a typical Jason Statham film only to be confronted by massed bewilderment. But the truth is that few Jason Statham films stray far from the tree.  Steven Knight throws several shameless bones out to action fans by having Jones work for the Chinese triad as — you guessed it, a driver.

With its outstanding cinematography, the film moves briskly, masking the limitations of its cast through sheer style, although the sight of Mr Statham with bloodshot, weepy eyes is probably worth the price of admission. Yet, it is not easy to call Hummingbird droll.

Interspersed at various points are subtle moments of clever humour, and the acting is curiously touching at times. But the idea-heavy plot leaves little room for character development. As we watch Jones’ progression from hobo, to hitman to saint, we know that it is all going to end badly. But just how badly is unclear, even as we are left watching one surreal scene after the next.