MRR Review: "Redemption"

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Homeless and on the run from a military court martial, a damaged ex-special forces soldier navigating London's criminal underworld seizes an opportunity to assume another man's identity -- transforming into an avenging angel in the process.
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MRR Review: "Redemption"

-- Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Director: Steven Knight
Genre: Action/Drama

When Joey (Jason Statham), a former Special Forces soldier, returns home from the war in Afghanistan, he faces life as a homeless man on the streets of London. Desperate for help, the soldier, who has taken on a fake identity while living on the streets, turns to a nun at an inner-city parish. Unfortunately, his request for help is not enough to redeem him from his sordid ways, and he becomes increasingly involved in the dark underworld of London crime. Eventually, his girlfriend is killed by another criminal, and Joey is willing to do anything in the name of revenge. The action that ensues may lead Joey to his death, or it may lead him toward redemption.

For several years, Jason Statham has been a popular star of action movies. Many of his roles have been over the top, and the plots of many of his films have been entertaining but not deep. His role as Joey in "Redemption," however, may mark a turning point in his career. Although "Redemption" is also an action film, it is much more realistic than some of his earlier films. As a result, it allows his acting to shine through, and that is one of the best things about this film. Jason Statham's fans are eager to see whether he will continue his work as an action star after this film or if decide to pursue other roles that require a different style of acting.

"Redemption" was directed by Steven Knight. It was his first stab at directing, but audiences may be familiar with his work as a screenwriter. He worked on the screenplays for both "Eastern Promises" and "Dirty Pretty Things." British audiences may also be familiar with his writing for TV, which includes work on shows such as "The Detectives" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" among others. In "Redemption," his directorial choices may be surprising for audiences.

As expected, Knight includes several scenes that are heavy on action and special effects, but he sprinkles some emotionally symbolic scenes throughout it as well. During the very first scene in the film, the audience looks at Joey from above; the scene is shot from the perspective of war planes flying above a battle scene, and this angle highlights Joey's feelings of being lost in a big and frightening world. Later, the audience looks down from the same perspective again during Joey's time on the streets. The sense of anger that Joey feels in the first scene is mirrored by the sense of desperation he feels while living on the streets. Both of these significant scenes are shot from far above the action, but in other scenes, Knight takes a much closer look at Joey.

In one scene, Joey is shown shaving his head while in the bathroom of a home that he is robbing. During this scene, the director builds a sense of intimacy between the audience and the film's central character, and during the scenes that follow, the director tries to create empathy between Joey and the audience. Joey does not steal for himself, but rather for the common good. This fact is underlined in a scene during which Joey gives his loot to a soup kitchen.

Due to the various perspectives that are included in many of the scenes in "Redemption," the movie feels almost like an art film at times. During one especially poignant dream sequence, a homeless Joey dreams about his time at war, and during the dream, he is relentlessly attacked by a bizarre combination of dead bodies and hummingbirds. This scene is so significant that the film was originally released under the name "Hummingbird." In spite of these relatively artistic scenes, "Redemption" is still an action film at heart.

While Joey is shaving his head, he finally assumes his role as the film's action man, and as the film progresses from this point, it takes many twists and turns. Unfortunately, not all of them are believable. He even attempts to start a romance with the nun who has been helping him with his troubles. This could have been an interesting plot twist, but the actors lack chemistry and are unable to pull it off effectively. Although the combination of action scenes and the emotional scenes in this film makes it feel inconsistent at times, it is still a solidly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

Rating: 3 out of 5