"When I'm sober...When I'm healthy and well...I hurt people. I'm lethal. I drink to weaken the machine they made."
This is acclaimed screenwriter, Steven Knight's directorial debut, which ultimately suffers from an unbalanced story. This isn't your typical Jason Statham action thriller; it's more of a neo-noir dramatic film that seems to be building up to a climactic ending but never manages to get there. The look of the film (the poster with the neon lights) and the silent main character gave out a sort of Drive vibe to it, but it never reaches that same quality and it never managed to draw me in emotionally. The film is barely over 90 minutes long and somehow due to the pacing of the story I felt like it was at least a two hour movie because there are several moments that just drag on and on without any specific purpose to build the story. Statham is a great actor, he has an on screen charisma, and this is perhaps one of his best performances but we don't get to see him do much of what we like in his films which is to beat up the bad guys. He gives a very convincing dramatic performance, but I really wasn't sold with the love story that much. The chemistry between him and Agata Buzek was practically nonexistent despite them both giving credible performances. I think the main issue had to do with the script which never quite knows where it is heading. It's a shame because Knight has written some great scripts in the past (Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things), but here he simply never manages to be compelling. There are way too many forced coincidences to move on with the story and several cliches as well. For a film that tries to take itself seriously it certainly misfires and never quite reaches the potential it could have. The cinematography is pretty strong as we get to see a much darker side of London, but the film pretty much falls flat.
As for the story goes, we are introduced to Joey Smith (Jason Statham), a former special forces soldier who experienced a severe trauma in Afghanistan and has been running ever since from a military court martial. At the present he's homeless and living on the streets of London under a constant state of drunkness. One night he and his friend Isabel (Victoria Bewick) are attacked by a pair of thugs and while trying to escape from them, Joey ends up breaking in to a nice apartment where he decides to hide for a while. While he's hiding he discovers that the owner of the apartment is currently in New York and will be staying there for several months, so Joey decides to take his identity during his absence and use his apartment, suits, and car to move around. Not being able to contact Isabel he decides to visit Sister Cristina (Agata Buzek), who always sets up a tent and provides several homeless people with food. Cristina hasn't heard from Isabel either, but she discovers that she has accepted to work for the thugs that had attacked them. Joey sees the opportunity that destiny has given him to start over again and clean up his act, and lands a job as an enforcer for a local Chinese mobster. Unfortunately Isabel's body is found washed up in a river, and Joey decides to take vengeance and find those responsible for her death.
There is also a strange sort of love relationship between Joey and Cristina that never really quite works, and he also happens to have a young daughter with whom he has become estranged. The film barely explores these elements as it tries to move the story forward in a rather bizarre pace, jumping back in forth to scenes of Joey in Afghanistan. These scenes of his past never work and they feel out of place, although I can see how the director wanted to tie this in to the sense of paranoia Joey was living under. Sister Cristina also has quite a shocking back story but the film simply is unbalanced and never quite figures out where it wants to go with all these elements. There were some strong moments where I thought the film was going to pick up, but then it took another unexpected turn that simply felt out of place and incoherent. I simply didn't get anything out of Redemption and couldn't quite figure out what it was trying to say.