Back to Netflix for a roundup of recent dumb action movies, most of which seem to star Jason Statham.

Skyfall (2012, Sam Mendes)

Whole world is orange. Hooray, a dyed-blonde Javier Bardem is shooting at Danny Craig (the non-Hulk lead in Munich). Bond dives into a frozen lake to escape, so Bardem menaces Judi Dench until he reappears. The hammy one-liners don’t work as well with the dark tone and grim-looking actors. Bardem and Dench are dead, and Bond stands over the city like Batman in the epilogue. Naomie Harris of 28 Days Later joins him, and Ralph Fiennes is the new Judi Dench, and I’m getting the feeling that this was a prequel. I guess the studio saw Away We Go and decided Sam Mendes should make their next Bond movie? From the writers of Johnny English and Bats.

Jack Reacher (2012, Christopher McQuarrie)

Tom Reacher decides not to shoot a dude, but to fist-fight and head-stomp him in the rain instead, as Rosamund Pike (The World’s End) is held hostage nearby by David Oyelowo (Rage), while none other than WERNER HERZOG sits there uselessly wearing a foggy contact lens. Tom is an unreasonably good shot, and Werner starts speechifying (this is what I was hoping for – not the action scenes but Herzog as sneering villain) when the Roku crashes, argh. The Wii was so much easier, though regrettably standard-def. Rosamund gets upset when Tom shoots defenseless Werner in the face, then Robert Duvall gives them a ride away from the depleted baddie den. Epilogue: hospitalized baddie Joseph Sikora tells of the Batman-like legend of Tom Reacher while Richard Jenkins stands quietly by. From the oscar-winning writer of The Tourist and Jack the Giant Slayer.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013, Antoine Fuqua)

Gerry Butler (of the upcoming London Has Fallen, haha) is being told that the president died on an exploded helicopter – but it’s not true! Baddie Rick Yune (X-Blade in Man With The Iron Fists) has president Aaron Eckhart captive, is threatening to detonate all of American’s nukes. Elsewhere, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett look concerned. White House bunker fight ends with the president shot and Gerry stabbing Yune in the head. From the guy who made Training Day and the writers of Expendables 3 (which features Jason Statham).

Redemption (2013, Steven Knight)

Jason Statham has a large head, stalks the ballet then tosses a fellow off a tall building and later apologizes about it to an accented woman (Polish Agata Buzek of Nightwatching) while flashing back to his Afghan war experience. Later, the accented woman is graduating from nun academy, reads mail from Statham. This is notably less action-packed than the last few. Knight wrote/directed the highly-rated Locke the same year.

Parker (2013, Taylor Hackford)

Bad Cop from The Shield and The Bunk from The Wire are menacing Jennifer Lopez, then Jason Statham knives a couple guys and Lopez shoots the hell out of The Bunk. Then whatever dude is still alive, he’s shot too. Then later a guy in an office is shot. Based on a series of Parker novels previously adapted under different names, so Lee Marvin (in Point Blank), Jim Brown, Robert Duvall, and Mel Gibson (in Payback) have all played Parker. Writer worked on Black Swan and director made The Devil’s Advocate.

Safe (2012, Boaz Yakin)

Limo driver Anson Exposition talks to Jason Statham on the phone, then shoots some Chinese gangsters. Statham nabs a secret disk (people are still killing guys for secret disks in movies) then rescues a kidnapped girl from Anson. Unwisely, instead of ending with all the shooting and killing, it wraps up plot threads with some groaner dialogue. Boaz previously wrote From Dusk Till Dawn 2, Dirty Dancing 2 and Prince of Persia 2.

Homefront (2013, Gary Fleder)

It’s Jason Statham and another kidnapped girl! Mean James Franco screams at Winona Ryder, and Kate “Superman Returns” Bosworth is disappointed in him, so accidentally explodes his house then gets shot. This is the star-studdedest Jason Statham revenge/kidnapping movie of the night. Car chase ends on a bridge, the girl was Statham’s daughter, and Franco gets reeeeeal punched for kidnapping her. Seems a bit better than the last two, but not any killing or enough Winona. Fleder previously made Runaway Jury, and writer Sylvester Stallone is best known as the original Judge Dredd.

Dredd (2012, Pete Travis)

Karl Urban (of Doom and Ghost Ship) wears an opaque black helmet, rescues a weird kid from underground redneck lair alongside his mindreading rookie partner Olivia Thirlby (Juno‘s best friend). Either the movie has framerate problems or Netflix is freaking out. Dredd finds “Mama” (Lena Headey of The Brothers Grimm), shoves her out a window, and now the funny framerate is intentional as she plummets and splats on the ground below in loving slow-motion. I don’t see why Jason Statham couldn’t have played Dredd – he’d look good in the helmet, and has experience shoving people off tall buildings. Travis went from historical royalty dramas to apartheid political dramas to this. Written by Alex “The Beach” Garland.

G.I. Joe Retaliation (2013, Jon Chu)

Bruuuce Willis shoots a dude and rescues Jonathan Pryce, and oh boy there’s gonna be a lot to keep track of. Maskless Storm Shadow (?) kills a shapeshifter. The usual terror-plot business where some missiles are gonna be launched unless some computer program is disabled. The Rock is shooting at Firefly – which one was he? The hovercraft driver? I never got the toy of that one. How exactly did they trade out Dennis Quaid for Bruce Willis, and where’s Joey Gordo-Levitt? Rock has a fist/gun/fight that is considerably less exciting than any Jason Statham fights then saves the world. Jinx and S.S. and Snake Eyes are all friends? I guess Tater Channing and Joey Levitt are dead. Anyway, ends with a boring award ceremony, then a credits sequence showing all the good parts I missed. Director Chu is best known for Justin Bieber documentaries and the writers worked on Zombieland and Disney’s Tarzan 2.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013, Tommy Wirkola)

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are battling evil Famke Janssen and her witch gang in a blur of semi-decent effects. The movie thinks we’ll forgive its cheesy fairy-tale blandness and fight-scene formula if it throws in some sweary one-liners. Norwegian writer/director made this between Dead Snow and Dead Snow 2.

Odd Thomas (2013, Stephen Sommers)

Anton Yelchin (Ian in Only Lovers Left Alive) fights a body-jumping ghost that looks like a giant insect with plastic wrap for skin, blows it the hell up. Then comes a very long narrated epilogue montage in which Odd dreams his girlfriend is still alive, and hey, Willem Dafoe and the star of Belle are here. Odd Yelchin stands above the city Batman-like, bringing us full circle. Based on a Dean Koontz book and, based on what little I watched, the best movie ever made by schlockmeister Sommers.

A stupid, jittery, high-energy action remake by Anderson, one of Cinema Scope’s 50 Under 50, highlighting what is for me the biggest problem with auteurism these days. In the 1960’s, movies were made on a factory line, some better than others, mostly credited to studios and producers, until observant critics realized that certain directors put out work of consistently high quality – no huge surprise there – but that they also had thematic and structural consistencies throughout a body of films from varied writers and studios. Heroes were belatedly made of Hawks, Ford and Hitchcock, and their films from critically-unloved genres (comedy, western, thriller) were reassessed. Today the studio system is totally different and every director thinks of himself as an auteur. Since the hardcore auteurists have nothing to discover, instead of enjoying the new world of supposedly personal cinema, they stare at the studio genre movies that still get made, searching for new names they can take credit for discovering. My pick was Hong Kong-turned-Hollywood Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky, Freddy vs. Jason), but I lost interest after Fearless. Mubi latched onto the late Tony Scott, and Cinema Scope loves Paul W.S. Anderson, responsible for three of the worst video-game adaptations I’ve seen in theaters (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator) and the underrated Event Horizon.

In a dystopian future, racing legend Jason Statham is set up for killing his perfect wife, and sent to a post-reality-TV prison, where he can earn his freedom by winning a few weapon-equipped car races which are, of course, rigged by the authorities (Joan Allen). He takes the place of a masked driver called Frankenstein (role reprised from the original by David Carradine), gets a mechanic (Ian McShane), a saboteur-spy sidekick (Natalie Martinez) and a rival (Tyrese Gibson, in the Sylvester Stallone role). After some ‘splosiony car races, Statham avenges his wife by killing mohawked driver Max Ryan and Pryzbylewski-looking guard Jason Clarke, then secretly teams up with Tyrese, easily breaking out of prison by shooting the walls with their missile-equipped cars, driving away to a Shawshank-esque incognito freedom.

Also, Ian McShane blows up Joan Allen:

Set in the dystopian future world of 2012. Will someone tell me again why future-movies always take place in the extremely near future? Followed by two sequels starring Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo. Produced by the great Roger Corman, in between Supergator and Sharktopus.

C. Huber in Cinema Scope calls him “the elder, least pretentious, and most consistently amusing Anderson of the current director trifecta: its termite artisan.”