Film Review with Robert Mann – Blitz

Blitz **½

Unless you are a reader of the novels of author Ken Bruen, whose book of the same name provides the basis for Blitz, it is very likely that you may be completely unaware of the existence of this film, such is the near complete absence of promotion of any kind for it – even I have only seen two trailers for it at my local cinema – and even if you are there’s a good chance that you may still be none the wiser. If you have seen the trailer you will probably have attained a pretty good impression of what to expect though. The latest action thriller starring Jason Statham, bringing to the table everything that that implies, Blitz is also a firmly British movie for once, harking back to earlier Statham roles like those in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, the film’s that made his name.

Trailers have promised a British cop movie with an edge that is not so often seen in movies and TV shows about the British police force and one with a glossy veneer that is reminiscent of a Hollywood movie although the cast is pure 100% British (or Irish), Jason Statham being backed up the likes of Paddy Considine, who many may recognise as one half of the Andies in Hot Fuzz, Aidan Gillen, who starred in 2010 ITV crime drama Identity, Zawe Ashton, who played Bianca in St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, and David Morrissey, who appeared in the 2009 Red Riding TV trilogy. So, a hardly blockbusting cast but some reasonably recognisable faces and actors who have demonstrated in some of their roles that they can deliver the kind of edge called for by this film. Behind the camera, there is some potential to be seen also with screenwriter Nathan Parker previously having written the highly acclaimed 2009 Duncan Jones film Moon (his only previous credit in fact) although director Elliott Lester has no such prestigious credits behind him, his only previous directorial effort being little known 2006 film Love Is the Drug, which premiered at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival and was screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, although before that he had directed over 100 music videos and commercials, out of which he received an MTV Award nomination for one with Jessica Simpson, an MVPA nomination for one with Hilary Duff and a Grammy nomination for one with The Fray. 

Take his past experience as you will but, as has been demonstrated, music video directors so sometimes have quite a knack for action fare. For some, the fact that this is based on a Ken Bruen – who is an executive producer on the film – novel might not exactly provide much assurance as to the film’s quality. After all, the last film to finds its inspirations in the pages of one of his stories was last year’s London Boulevard, a film that was critically reviled and entirely deserving of such a negative reception. The fact that this film is also based on the fourth novel in a series following the characters Detective Sergeant Tom Brant (the character who Jason Statham is playing) and Chief Inspector James Roberts, a series of which none of the previous instalments – A White Arrest, Taming the Alien and The McDead – have been adapted for the screen, might also raise some doubts. Does Blitz manage to overcome such concerns though and stand out as a cop movie that is different from what we Brits are used to seeing or does it rather fall completely flat out on its face as another London Boulevard style disappointment?

Detective Sergeant Tom Brant (Jason Statham) is a hard as nails copper who has a reputation for getting into trouble as a result of his no nonsense attitude towards criminals, his numerous assaults on delinquents and troublemakers having brought shame to the police station he works at where his Super (Nicky Henson) is becoming increasingly tired of the bad publicity brought upon him and those officers serving beneath him. On the verge of completely burning out, Brant finds all his frustrations focused on one man when a serial killer calling himself “Blitz, as in Blitzkrieg” starts murdering police officers and he finds himself on the front line of trying to apprehend him. Partnered with Porter Nash (Paddy Considine), an acting Police Inspector standing in for Chief Inspector James Roberts (Mark Rylance), who is suffering with grief over the loss of his wife, and, despite seeming completely by-the-book, actually shares a deep understanding of the frustrations that Brant is experiencing, it doesn’t take long for Brant to uncover the identity of the killer. 

A man not quite of sound mind and with a burning hatred of the police and a personal history with Brant, Barry Weiss (Aidan Gillen) is the man behind the killings but proving it turns out to be an almost impossible task, him having completely covered all his tracks. Not helping matters is hack crime reporter Harold Dunlop (David Morrissey) who, as the man in the media that Blitz has chosen to contact, feels that he has a stake in the case and whose actions threaten to unravel the whole investigation. With Blitz having threatened to kill eight more police officers – including Brant’s colleague WPC Elizabeth Falls (Zawe Ashton) who is facing her own personal demons as her former drug addiction returns to the fray – though, Brant and Nash know that the killer must be stopped no matter what the cost. No stranger to getting his hands dirty, Brant cuts a swathe of destruction across London in pursuit of his quarry. When Blitz is finally caught, though, will justice prevail or will Brant have to take the law into his own hands.

The last film to be based on a Ken Bruen novel, London Boulevard was very poorly received, being heavily criticised for being so clichéd, generic and downright bad. Based on that film you may well very low expectations for Blitz (even with none of the filmmakers behind that film being involved) and compared to these expectations, this film actually manages to seem not bad. On its own terms, however, while the film may be a vast improvement upon London Boulevard, it bares too many striking similarities, with many of that film’s flaws also being present here. Feeling very generic, this is a film that often seems like it is trying to emulate many other better crime thrillers, British and American, many conventions of the genre – the rogue cop who takes the law into his own hands, the psychopathic killer with a dislike for authority and the cop struggling with drug addiction not to mention the police funeral – being present here front and centre, the overall film failing to be nearly as good as any of the films it so clearly draws inspiration from. 

Despite boasting the screenwriter of Moon as the architect of its script, the film’s writing is just mediocre, dialogue failing to stand out in any way and the storyline coming across woefully lacking. The plot delivers no surprises whatsoever, there being absolutely no mystery as to the identity of the killer, who Blitz is being revealed to us and the protagonists very early on, and also often feels messy and unfocused with several developments set in motion, several unconnected to the main plotline, and then never properly explored. The character development is hardly extensive either, the unlikely friendship that develops between Brant and Nash seeming rather forced while subplots involving Roberts trying to deal with his grief and Falls attempting to help a friend who thinks he has killed someone with the help of DI Craig Stokes (Luke Evans) while struggling with the return of her drug problems are barely explored and seem largely irrelevant and go unresolved. All this leads into an ending that is a bit of an anti-climax and a final scene just seems weird, leaving the film on a note that barely feels finished at all. 

And the occasional instance of British humour – only in a British film could a character have vicious pet dogs names Posh and Becks – is not enough to distract from the script’s many shortcomings. In other aspects, the film fares marginally better than the writing, with the camerawork being efficient, comprising some Hollywood style aerial shots of London with more down and dirty street level shots, and the urban setting effectively raw and edgy, creating a sense of a place in which a serial killer could easily thrive while the violence seems authentic, being violence is brutal and bloody, so much so that even the killer throws up in one scene. This isn’t a film for squeamish viewers, that’s for certain. More thriller than actioner, the one action scene the film does offer up, a dramatic foot chase through the streets of London, is well executed also although not nearly enough tension is ratcheted up surrounding the killings. 

The action manages to be proficient but unremarkable here. Introduced to his character in the opening scenes which show us his roguish and violent behaviour and the media storm that has been inspired by it Jason Statham, as you would probably expect, is just Jason Statham. He doesn’t just act or look tough, he is tough, and it is effortlessly easy to buy him as a hard bastard who takes the law into his own hands but if you want any kind of emotional depth from the character he portrays here you will not find it. Playing a killer who’s merciless and the exact opposite of subtle, completely insane, who likes being the centre of attention, thinking nothing of killing out in the open with his face visible for the whole world to see and is so audacious that he actually attends the funeral of one of his victims dressed in his victim’s police uniform, Aidan Gillen is smarmy and sadistic, looking and acting completely mental and deranged and genuinely seeming like a person who is really enjoying killing his victims. As for the other cast members, pretty much everyone is sufficient but no one really delivers a performance that truly warrants mention or comment. So, in all Blitz is a thriller that proves watchable but will likely leave you feeling rather underwhelmed. Less of a blitzkrieg then, more of a surrender.

Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

  • Anonymous 25th August 2011

    Blitz was not Jason Statham’s masterpiece, but it was an entertaining action film that was worth watching. Well, at least once. A good rental movie especially if you have an affordable way to see it like, Blockbuster online. It makes it virtually risk-free to try movies you’re not sure about because if you really don’t like it you can just do an in-store exchange. Being an employee and subscriber of DISH Network I’ve always had a complete entertainment package but it has gotten even better now that I have Blockbuster too, especially since they have a lot of the new releases long before anyone else. And now new DISH customers can get 3 months of Blockbuster absolutely free, it’s a great deal you can check out the details here if you’d like.

  • Anonymous 25th August 2011



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