A career criminal, Parker sticks to a moral code that means he doesn't steal from the poor or hurt innocent people but has no problem resorting to violence if someone deserves it (see both Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson's portrayal of the character in 1967's Point Blank and 1999's Payback, respectively, for more info). In Parker, the anti-hero is betrayed by his crew and left for dead, so he heads to Palm Beach, Florida, seeking revenge and taking their next heist for himself as well. The movie looks like a perfect opportunity for Statham, an actor who seems uniquely dedicated to making nothing but action movies. But how much do you know about Statham's career? If you've got eight hours, we can make you a Statham expert.
(2000, 102 minutes)
"What do I know about diamonds? I'm a boxing promoter!"
In his early years, Statham was a diver for the British National Diving Squad, and had moved on to working as a model when Guy Ritchie cast him in his directorial debut, 1998's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, became a hit in the U.K. and found a cult following United States. After that came nothing for two years until Ritchie again cast Statham in Snatch, Statham's breakthrough success in America.
"I didn't work for a couple of years, yeah," said Statham of his dry spell to EW in 2009. "It's hard to get work in the UK because they like people that come from that traditional background. They would rather have you do three years at RADA [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts]. Eventually I ended up moving out to the States because that's where they make great, great action films."
Of course, it would be a while before Statham would appear in one of those "great action films," starting off his time in the U.S. by slogging through The One (with fellow Expendable Jet Li) and the woeful, sci-fi flick Ghosts of Mars. Still, Snatch is a fun romp of a movie, filled with eccentric characters and excellent music.
(2005, 88 minutes)
"It's because of who I am."
The Transporter movies aren't exactly know for their subtlety and nuance, so if there is any of the three that best encapsulates the franchise's penchant for over-the-top action, it's The Transporter 2. For instance, in which movie did Statham launch his car off of a ramp into a barrel roll in order to knock a bomb off the bottom of the car with a crane hook? Only in Transporter 2, which finds professional "transporter" Frank Martin (Statham) living in Miami and taking a temporary position as a personal chauffeur for a wealthy family. The U.S. setting was unique for a Transporter movie, as was Frank's rebuffing of a woman's advances. In director Louis Leterrier's eyes, Transporter 2 was Frank's "coming out" party.
"If you watch the movie and you know he’s gay, it becomes so much more fun," Leterrier told the LA Times in 2005. "It’s so great — the first gay action movie hero!"
Statham refuted the claim. "It’s just Lou-Lou trying to be funny," Statham said of his director. "Although he did say, ‘In Part 2, you will become the gay icon.'"
Of course, it's not the only Transporter movie where Statham takes his shirt off.
(2006, 93 minutes)
"My name is Chev Chelios and today is the day that I die."
After taking one of his only dramatic roles in 2005's London, Statham took his wildest role to date with Crank. "I've always wanted to get stuck into a film which isn't to be taken too seriously," Statham told EW in 2009. "It's outrageous, it's shocking. It's, at times, politically incorrect. It's so unrestricted in all senses of the word that you can just have all kinds of fun. It's a gift really to be able to do something so silly and outrageous."
Statham's not joking. The actor plays a British hitman living in Los Angeles who is poisoned and must continue to keep his adrenaline pumping or his heart will cease to keep beating. And how does Statham keep his heart going? By picking fights, committing robberies and even resorting to a defibrillator at one point. The result is one of the craziest action movies ever made, and, if you can get into the spirit of it, a rewarding one as well.
(2008, 111 minutes)
"We're not bank robbers."
Based on real events, The Bank Job took Statham back to his home country for a crime story centered on the real-life, 1971 Baker Street robbery in central London. As Statham mentioned to The Guardian, the role of petty criminal-turned-car salesman Terry Leather required "a few more layers" than his previous movies and turned out to be one of his favorites.
"I'm very fond of that film," Statham told EW in 2009. "It's one of my favorite films, apart from the Guy Ritchie stuff. Again, it's me playing something that I don't normally get a chance to do: a family man, a father, a husband. There's a lot more depth to those kind of characters than some of the others I have to play. Loved The Bank Job."
While the previous movies should prepare one for being conversant in Statham, there's still time on the clock for one more, and this one just so happens to be one of Statham's biggest hits.
(2003, 111 minutes)
"I trust everyone. It's the devil inside them I don't trust."
Statham had already made the first Transporter movie, but went back to an ensemble action movie with The Italian Job, a remake of the 1969 British movie of the same name. At first, Statham wasn't sold on playing Handsome Rob, a member of a group of thieves whose expertise was in, you guessed it, driving.
"I was very apprehensive," Statham explained to EW in 2009. "You just think, 'How the f**k are the Americans going to do this? They're not going to do it as well as we did it in the first place.' But the chance to work with bigger and better actors and to be in a substantially-budgeted film was a great opportunity for me. And the experience is one I will never forget. Hanging around with [Mark] Wahlberg and Ed Norton and Charlize [Theron], it was great. There's no substitute for working with people of that caliber."
The Italian Job was one of Statham's biggest box office successes, and was supposed to have a sequel, The Brazilian Job, but that movie has yet to surface. Still, the legacy of The Italian Job lives on in the streets with the Mini Cooper, which the movie help popularize during a subterranean chase sequence.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but, after all, at 45, Statham has plenty more movies left to make, and we're certain that in another 10 years, the "essential" movies of Statham will probably have an entirely different look.