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'Hummingbird' review: Jason Statham emotes in classy thriller

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Director: Steven Knight; Screenwriter: Steven Knight; Starring: Jason Statham, Agata Buzek, Vicky McClure, Benedict Wong; Running time: 100 mins; Certificate: 15


> Jason Statham Hummingbird interview

Steven Knight's powerful and thought provoking British thriller excels on the strength of the dynamics between its emotionally damaged central characters, along with a clever decision to cast action star Jason Statham as the lead. Along with the capability to bash the brains out of any foe with something as seemingly mundane as a spoon, the guy can also emote. Tears shall flow.

Much like Knight's script for Eastern Promises, his work on Hummingbird delves into the murky London underworld and homes in on the homeless community and criminal fraternity that concurrently occupy the shadowy spaces amidst the pubs and coffee shops in the West End. The focus is on ex Special Forces soldier Joey Jones (Statham), who lives rough and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after a revenge-fuelled incident while on duty in Afghanistan.

Initially seen with uncharacteristically long and straggly hair, rendering Statham an uncanny doppelganger for late The Really Wild Show presenter Terry Nutkins, Joey tries to clean up his life and seek redemption when a prostitute friend is killed by a scar-faced yuppie with sadistic sexual fetishes.

Hummingbird still
Squatting in a plush apartment and stealing its owner's identity, he strikes up a close bond with Cristina (Agata Buzek), a Polish nun hiding a murky past, and works as a brutal debt collector for the criminal mafia in Chinatown. Joey's wages go towards feeding the homeless (and thus his ego), while building up the connections that can send him closer to unmasking his friend's murderer. But as his moral compass goes haywire, how much will his benevolent acts atone for his reprehensible ones in the eyes of himself and his clergical companion?

The setting for Hummingbird's story is a fitting canvas for the tale it tells. First time director Knight uses bleak locations like the grimy banks of the Thames and claustrophobic Soho side streets to fine effect, with London effectively functioning as an aesthetically and morally decadent character in its own right. As Joey mournfully laments at one point, "What's happening to this city?"

Jason Statham's impressive turn isn't an entirely radical departure, as his action genre star persona is harnessed well with the delivery of several brutal beatings and clinical one-liners. "I didn't realise there would be photographs of penises" is one particular crowdpleaser. But these are peripheral to the character's internal struggle, verbalised through the many touching scenes with Cristina and culminating in a wonderfully emotive moment on the cobblestones of Covent Garden.

There's an authenticity to the manner in which their friendship develops, as the pair find temporary solace and reciprocal empathy through sharing their pasts and seeking redemption. Agata Buzek is a revelation as Cristina, teasing a playfulness that lurks beneath the conservative religious garb before bringing it out in uproarious fashion during an unexpected alcohol-fuelled incident.

Hummingbird is a multi-faceted film that satisfies as both an unconventional love story and a classic Western-style tale of redemption set against the oppressive cityscape of London. The casting of Jason Statham proves to be far from a marketing stunt in this engrossing and gripping movie that resonates long after the end credits have rolled.

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