He headlined the adrenaline-fuelled Crank and Transporter series and flexed his muscles admirably opposite the old guard of Stallone and Schwarzenegger in The Expendables.
Statham continues to dish out merciless beatings in Blitz, a gritty action thriller adapted from the novel by Ken Bruen about a mentally unstable loner at war with London’s police.
Shot on location in the capital, Elliott Lester’s film is brutal and bloody, opening as it means to go on with Statham’s reckless cop doling out some rough justice with a hurling stick to three youths who foolishly attempt to steal his car.
“Hurling: a cross between hockey and murder,” he educates his whimpering victims.
He plays DS Tom Brant, who has a knack for getting into trouble and is often splashed across the front pages thanks to local crime reporter, Harold Dunlop (David Morrissey).
Threatened with suspension, Brant is enlisted to work under newly promoted and openly gay DS Porter Nash (Paddy Considine) to catch a cop killer.
“Are you as black as you’re painted?” asks Nash, trying to assert authority.
“Are you as nancy as they say?” replies Brant sensitively.
While Nash plays by the rules, following lines of enquiry to narrow down the list of suspects, Brant turns to his former boss, Chief Inspector James Roberts (Mark Rylance), for advice.
He also keeps an eye on one-time undercover drug cop WPC Elizabeth Falls (Zawe Ashton), who is recently out of rehab and still has valuable informants in play.
As the investigation continues, Nash and Brant bond and the men point the finger of suspicion at Barry Weiss (Aidan Gillen).
“He’s been arrested more times than you’ve had WPCs,” a female colleague informs Brant cheekily.
While the two detectives look for damning evidence, Falls makes her own enquiries, leading to a sexually charged encounter with dashing DI Craig Stokes (Luke Evans).
Blitz is familiar stomping ground for Statham, who growls his lines in monotone while dispatching bad guys with fists, guns and barbed one-liners: “If you’re picking the wrong fight, at least pick the right weapon!”
Considine avoids stereotypes and the relationship between the two men - distrust and bigotry mellowing into unerring loyalty - underpins Lester’s hard-hitting tour of London’s blood-stained streets.
The denouement strains credibility, however, relying on a character showing restraint when they have merrily pulled the trigger for the rest of the film.
Ashton delivers a solid supporting performance as the WPC haunted by the demons of drug addiction, despite her plotline being malnourished and scenes with Evans are lazily engineered for the sake of romance to cut through the slaughter.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: May 20 (UK & Ireland), 97 mins