Redemption


Year 2013

Jason Statham as  Joey Smith
Agata Buzek as Sister Christina
Victoria Bewick   as Isabel
Benedict Wong as Mr. Choy
Ger Ryan as Mother Superior  
Anthony Morris as Taxman
 
Director - Steven Knight
Screenwriter - Steven Knight
  - Matt Manfredi

Redemption is one of those movies that mostly works while you're watching it. But then, at the end, there's an empty feeling and you need to go back and figure out why. It's not satisfying and this isn't due to the downbeat ending. It's due to all the hodgepodge and fantasy that makes up the movie.

Joey Smith (Statham) committed a war crime while fighting in the, da-da-dum!, Special Forces in the Middle East. He ran away from his punishment and he's been living on skid row in London ever since. Sort of like hundreds of other films with the same plot since about 2000.

Everybody's some sort of special elite killing machine. Everybody from Denzel Washington in The Equalizer. to Keanu Reeves as JohnWick. Seriously. Keanu Reeves. And that doesn't include the Pierce Brosnans, Liam Neesons, Bruce Willises, or Michael Matthiases. I think more actors are playing Gulf War veterans than played Vietnam veterans. Even George Clooney got in on the Gulf War act...twice.

But I digress. I digress for a good reason. How do I explain all of the, "Huh?" moments in this film? How do O call out the, "Why is that happening?" bits without attempting to explain my interpretation of them? I guess I'll have to resort to that old stand-by, "I dunno."

Take the beginning of the movie. It's the war and there're drones. The images from the drones are shown. They're probably real images from real drones because they don't match the street layout they're supposedly capturing and they aren't continuous. Here a gap, there a gap, everywhere a gap-gap. There's also a voice over about what's supposedly being shown that doesn't match what's being shown. But the city is a bombed out Standanibad or something and a Bradley tank is ambused because it drove into a building/garage. So Smith (Stathan) parades a local through the streets. What happened here? One minute an ATV is shot up and the next some guy is being marched through the street. It couldn't be one of ambushers. They got away. Who is this guy and how much time has elapsed? I dunno.

What's the point of the drone imagery? All through the movie there's drone or surveillance shots dropped in at random. I thought of The Anderson Tapes but even that movie had some use for data collection. Why do they do it here? I dunno.

Next thing you know, Smith is living on the streets in London sharing a box with Isabella (I'm not making this up. "Did you love Isabella?" he's asked at one point. He answers, "She's someone I shared a box with." There's a dirty joke there, but I won't go into that place.) She turns up dead and then it gets personal!

There's a lot of violence in this movie, but it's sporadic and usually believable. For example, when Smith throws someone up against a glass window, it doesn't shatter. Is this damning with faint praise? Perhaps.

The acting is all around good. I thought Statham was just a piece of fluff until I saw him try and carry Revolver alone. After that one, I try and cut him some slack. He does a good job in this movie, too. And it's a good thing. The movie is mostly about the realtionship between him and Sister Christina (Buzek). She tries to get him to become good but becomes more and more lax in her faith.

Now, I'm sure the writer didn't intend this consequence. I'm sure he was going for the "we're all human and have our own baggage" point of view. To me, it came off that the corporeal can corrupt the spritual. The nun lies, drinks, and has sex. "But she neeeded to!" some of you may protest. Uh, not if the healing is coming from God, she doesn't. God doesn't heal with earthly rewards. At least that's not what I was taught...by nuns...from Poland.

I mentioned Poland because I caught a couple of Polish words from Sister Christina. But sometimes she sounded Russian, so who knows?

Anyway, this decision to achieve enlightenment through earthly pleasures didn't win any points with me. Want to be good? According to the movie, just give people money. Smith gives money to the poor, the nun, the convent, and his wife. Ex-wife? I dunno. Smith sleeps with the nun, so is this adultery? He says that he's Catholic and Catholics rarely annul marriages, so I'm assuming yes. Heal the nun by having her sleep with a married man? I dunno.

While watching the movie, I noticed that people didn't always behave as they should, especially in heterosexual situations. Smith meets his wife in a grocery store and she starts throwing cans at him and then saying something about being a part time hooker to make ends meet. Uh, what? No worries, though. He gives her money and makes things better.

This wasn't the only time men and women behaved oddly towards each other. A nun wearing a red dress was another. It made me wonder if the writer, Steven Knight, was gay. When one scene took place at a bondage art photo exhibit complete with explicit shots of male genetalia, I went all in on the gay thing. I don't know how gay guys think straight guys and gals should behave, but it's not like he portrays them.

The odd part is that this movie isn't bad. Oh, the pay off is weak. Saying that cold-blooded murder solves things doesn't seem right. But there are some mixed yet still interesting moments. Spoiler for rest of paragraph! At one point Smith will be given what he wants if he takes on "the job no one else wants". Sounds interesting. What sort of job is it? I mean Smith has dealt with theft, murder, prostitution, gangs, and taking out really big guys. So what's this job? He shows up at the docks and opens a trailer. Inside are boxes, like oversized banana crates. In Chinese, Macau, I think, Smith says, "Stick out your left arm and make a fist." Twenty-four little arms stick out of holes in twenty-four boxes. He takes these people, slaves really, to their destination. It's effective, empathic imagery. But when you think about it, you go, "Huh?" First of all, how did these people breath, much less eat and drink? Every box had an arm stick out, so everybody made it from China to London by boat in that manner? And why did no one want the job? I'd think, as sad as it was, you were releasing these souls from their prisons. Wouldn't you want to shorten their suffering? If someone asked, "We've got twenty-four starving people who can barely breathe, packaged up and suffering. Want to help get them free and maybe offer them some hope?" I wouldn't say no. I might not like that they're treated like objects rather than people, but that wouldn't stop me from at least offering to lessen their suffering.

So, the job that no one wanted failed to be that for me. In fact, because it made an assumption that just depicting the inside of the container would evoke horror without attempting to enjoin the viewer through an immersive presentation, it came off as ludicrous and bordered on parody. Often the movie as a whole took tragedy and failed to turn it into something that evoked sympathy. As the movie played on, I felt no sense of redemption or even a need for one. I did feel like I was watching two characters, Jones and Sister Christina, who'd lost their way. But why redemption? I dunno.

Profanity and a touch of blasphemy and nudity in the form of photos of male BDSM models. The movie started with high ideals but couldn't raise itself above the world of the flesh. Probably a better watch if you're gay because then you're more in touch with Steven Knight's less than spritual message. (Yeah, the whole misreprentation of nuns thing got to me.)


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