A Long Overdue Tribute To Jason Statham’s Performance In ‘Spy’

07.18.19 1 month ago

20th Century Fox

There are some things everyone should know. Everyone should know basic first aid, for one, because life is unpredictable and the human body is more fragile than we like to think. Everyone should also know how to prepare at least two or three simple meals, not just grilled cheese or scrambled eggs — real meals, because you’re a grownup now, come on, at least learn how to make shrimp scampi or something. And, perhaps most importantly, everyone should know that Jason Statham gives a performance for the ages in the 2015 comedy Spy.

Have you seen Spy? I really hope you have. It came out multiple years ago and is on basic cable something like 40 times a week. You’d have to be actively avoiding it at this point. Why would you do that? Why would you deny yourself that joy? Spy is very good. Melissa McCarthy is very good in Spy as the mousy office agent who heads out into the glamorous world of fieldwork. Allison Janney and Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale are very good in Spy, too. Zach Woods shows up for about 90 seconds and gets his throat melted while he’s flipping the bird (which is a pretty efficient appearance, all things considered). It’s fun and funny and smart and all the things you need in a compulsively rewatchable movie.

None of that is the point, though, really. The point of this particular discussion is Jason Statham. He plays a character named Rick Ford who is very intense and somewhat bumbling and basically a knowing wink at the types of characters Jason Statham plays in a gaggle of straightforward action movies, your various Cranks and Transporters and Mechanics. On paper, none of it is breaking new ground. Action stars have played winking parodies of themselves forever. Tom Cruise did an entire movie, Knight & Day, that could be accurately described as “tongue-in-cheek Mission: Impossible.” The thing that makes Statham’s performance so great, however, is the commitment. He leans in so far you start to worry he’ll tip over. It’s incredible.

Examples will help. Let’s do some examples. Here’s his first big appearance in the movie, in a scene that takes place at the agency’s headquarters not long after the suspected death of another agent, played by Jude Law. You’ll want your headphones in if you’re at work or a coffee shop or any place where people might frown on Jason Statham saying swear words rather loudly.

It’s important for journalists to disclose potential biases and conflicts, so let me begin by saying that I was obviously going to be in the tank for any scene in which Jason Statham says, “Here’s what we do… I go into the Face/Off machine, get a whole new face.” It combines two of my favorite things: Jason Statham and any movie about John Travolta and Nicolas Cage swapping faces. But even with that said, this is just about perfect. Look at the commitment. Look at him selling those lines. Comedy Statham is a damn revelation.

Also, please note the thing at the 0:20 mark where he rubs his chin and a loud scratching sound is dubbed in. That’s not so much Statham as it is some genius in the editing process — let’s just assume it’s writer and director Paul Feig — deciding to add depth to the over-the-top gruff character by implying his stubble has the consistency of sandpaper, but it’s really funny either way. Like, naturally, Jason Statham’s whiskers are made of steel wool. This should be canon in all of his films.

So that’s one example. Here’s another. This is him popping up and surprising Melissa McCarthy on the mission, which he is very much not supposed to be a part of but is inserting himself into for reasons he will explain. Kind of. For reasons he will kind of explain.

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