Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Grudgement Day: Paul Bettany VS Jason Statham

It's been a love-not love summer for Jason Statham and Marvel as rumors swirled that he was up for the role of Bullseye in Netflix's second season of Daredevil. It seems like it was an unfounded piece of gossip as The Punisher and Elektra have been announced thus far with no mention of the crazy and accurate assassin. In June while promoting comedy Spy, Statham expressed his disdain for Marvel films and tentpoles that rely on green screen, stunt doubles and $200 million dollar budgets as he's inspired by old school action heroes and in this day and age, you could put his grandma in a cape and put her into the action. Incredible Hulk Mark Ruffalo laughed it off with a faux throw of the gauntlet while actual caped Marvel hero The Vision aka Paul Bettany appeared on Conan O'Brien and admitted he was an actor and would let stunt men do their job while suggesting Statham get an acting double. It was all in jest with Jennifer Connelly's husband claiming he wouldn't want to run into the Stath but of course, the ol' internet saw it as a "slam" or "bitch slap". Going back to their original comments, you can clearly see it's just a usual case of getting worked up for nothing. Statham's comments are not untrue as you literally could take anyone and using CGI, stunt doubles, editing, green screen and a good choreographer, put them into the middle of an action scene. But not everyone can do a fight, flips or spills in a single, large shot. But it does shine an interesting light on our current view of what makes a leading man.

To me, it hearkened back to Sylvester Stallone claiming that Michael Keaton strapping on fake muscles for Batman effectively changed cinemas perspective of being heroic. While guys like Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood oozed machismo and were physical, they weren't the bodybuilding action heroes of the 80's that Sly, Arnold and Jean-Claude Van Damme ushered in. Along with icons of the era like Chuck Norris, Carl Weathers, Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren, each of these cinematic tough guys had a background anchored in sports and physicality. Beefy muscles became cliche and more athletic everyman heroes like Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage and Matt Damon took center stage. Yet now everyone is in shape again and taking their shirts off on camera. Chris Pratt became a leading man because he dropped 60 pounds. Brad Pitt still looked great for a scene in Fury. Chris Hemsworth and Evans always have a moment in their Marvel films to show off the goods and even serious actor Robert Downey Jr. has to hit the gym for Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. Hugh Jackman's hulking transformations into Wolverine have defined his career. The only difference is, none of these guys could kick you in the face or break blocks of ice with their bare hands.

On the flip side, is Jason Statham a bad actor or simply typecast as a growling smart ass? As with anyone on the above list, stars become stars because viewers like them in a specific type of role. From Stallone gaining weight and going back to drama for Copland or Jim Carrey ditching laughs for The Truman Show to Hemsworth playing funny in Vacation, no actor wants to constantly repeat himself. It would be nice to see Statham in a light ensemble piece like Snatch or The Italian Job again but those lower budget action fests probably pay him a lot better. He did show some smarts by playing opposite Melissa McCarthy in Spy and took on The Rock for Furious 7 this summer. Paul Bettany has worked with everyone from Peter Weir to Ron Howard opposite Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks but has he ever had his name above a title? A quick search on Facebook shows Statham has 52 million fans while Bettany tops out at...62 THOUSAND. Perhaps Statham can go back to his character actor roots as he gets older while Bettany continues to be a respected character actor that will never be a star. In the end, they're both doing just fine.

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