Death-Defying Action Sequences in Jason Statham Films: “Transporter 2” and “The Expendables 4”

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One of the greatest action movie stars of all time, Jason Statham is also among the few actors who performs dangerous stunts on his own.

Stunts may not come as anything out of the ordinary for the English actor. He is, after all, a trained diver. He was a member of Britain’s national diving team and competed for England in the 1990 Commonwealth Games. He is also a practitioner of Chinese kickboxing, karate, wing chun and other forms of martial arts.

On the screen, he embodies the tough, gritty and skilled action hero. His athleticism, fighting skills and no-nonsense attitude make him believable and exciting in action sequences. No wonder several of his films have been major box office hits, starting with his debut in the Guy Ritchie film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). In fact, his films have grossed over USD 1.5 billion to date, not only proving his commercial appeal but also solidifying his status as a bankable action star.

The stunts he performs are certainly a major draw. They add authenticity and intensity to his action scenes. This dedication to performing several of them on his own further reinforces his image as a bona fide action hero.

He is also a strong advocate for more recognition for stunt work in films. In a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, he said that stunts are an overlooked category at the Academy Awards.

“I think it is an overlooked category,” Statham said, especially considering “how much responsibility these coordinators have for some of the greatest entertainment in action movies. I mean, all of the stuntmen—these are the unsung heroes. They really are. Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks. And then you’ve got poncy actors pretending like they’re doing [the stunts].”

“For me,” he continued, “it’s a total injustice.”

Statham is also all praise for some of his co-stars, particularly Sylvester Stallone, for doing stunts on their own in many instances.

“He’s got a roadmap of injuries over the course of his career,” Statham said in another interview. “A lot of the things we do, it’s because our ego gets in front of us, and we want it to be authentic. We want people to see that that’s us doing it. We want the audience to go for the ride.”

Given his stature and voice for stunt work, it won’t come as a surprise that he did the stunts in his latest film, The Beekeeper. In fact, he also learned bee-keeping to get into the skin of his character, Adam Clay, who is a beekeeper in the film. He reportedly didn’t get stung even once during filming.

“He does his own stunts, he’s an athlete. He has so much action history, so much physical ability, and an understanding of how to make it look good on camera. I’ve done a lot of action, but he took me to school. But off duty, Jason is a nice, normal, down-to-earth dude,” David Ayer, the director of The Beekeeper, told Variety about Statham’s work.

Stunts performed by Jason Statham in his movies
The Italian Job (2003)

A remake of the critically acclaimed 1969 film of the same name, The Italian Job was obviously expected to up the stunt quotient by many notches given that its predecessor set a precedent followed by all other action films since.

The remake stars Jason Statham along with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Mos Def and Donald Sutherland. Statham plays the team’s wheelman, Handsome Rob. As is expected of him, the English actor did quite a few of the stunts on his own. His most significant stunt work in The Italian Job? The famous boat chase sequence in Venice.

F. Gary Gray, the film’s director, said in an interview that he didn’t want to rely on CGI or visual effects. Statham piloted the boat in which his character is seen making an escape.

“You see both of our faces in the boats cuz he is really driving it,” Green, who played Lyle, said in the interview, adding that Statham “piloted like 45 miles an hour.”

Statham said that he was not too experienced in boating.

“It’s a lot more difficult than it looks. You really need to have some kind of understanding of what speed you are doing, what kind of an arc, what kind of drift you are taking,” he said.

The actor highlighted that the stunt was very difficult when the boat entered the narrow canals, with the low-hanging bridges passing almost inches over the heads of the camerapersons on the boat.

Transporter 2 (2005)

Of all the dangerous stunts that Jason Statham has done in his movies, the one that he thinks was closest to death was in Transporter 2. The English-language French action film directed by Louis Leterrier is a sequel to The Transporter (2002).

The action scenes in Transporter 2 are truly terrific, but there is one that trumps all.

It is an action scene in the film where his character, Frank Martin, makes a jump from a jet ski to the back of a bus. One mistake and Statham could have been in a coma because there were no safety wires — a risk, he says, he shouldn’t have done.

“I did a little jump in the Transporter 2, or a jump from the back of a jet ski onto the back of a bus. It wasn’t a very safe stunt. I shouldn’t have done it, there was no safety wire, but I just did that. I mean, if I’d have missed the back of the bus, it would have been a faceplant at 30 mph into the concrete. Just silly things that I’ve done,” the actor told Collider.

Crank (2006)

Imagine clinging on to your dear life from the side of a helicopter just for the sake of a stunt. Some actors may have done that in recent years, but Jason Statham did that years ago in Crank.

One of the most death-defying stunts performed by any actor ever in movies, Jason Statham dangled out of a helicopter over 900 metres in the air over Los Angeles as his character exchanged blows with the villain played by Jose Pablo Cantillo.

It is an insane scene, made crazier when it is known that the actor himself and not a stunt double who was doing the entire action sequence in the helicopter.

“How do you train for hanging out of a helicopter? You just go and do it,” Statham famously said when he was asked how he performed the stunt.

He later confirmed to Collider that it was indeed a real helicopter sequence.

“There have been a couple of situations. I think when we shot Crank, we were hanging out of a real helicopter,” he said.

“A lot of the things we do now – with The Expendables – anytime you’re on a helicopter it’s usually on a green screen. But with Crank, we were actually in a helicopter. We’re shooting a fight scene where I was standing on the skids, we have a small pick there. So it was a real stunt, you know, that one was pretty tricky,” added Statham.

The Expendables 3 (2014)

The Expendables is one of the best-known action film franchises in the last two decades. It is hailed by fans of the genre for bringing together some of the biggest action superstars of the 1980s and the 1990s on the big screen, with many iconic pairings seen for the first time.

Besides Statham, whose character Lee Christmas is one of the two main leads alongside Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross, the top names who have been part of the franchise to date are Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson.

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In The Expendables 3, Christmas, Barney and the rest of the team members go after Mel Gibson’s arms dealer character Conrad Stonebanks. One high-octane action scene from the film shows Terry Crews’ character, Caesar, coming to the rescue of Barney and the rest of the team as they battle Conrad and his men.

Statham is seen driving a truck to keep his team safe in that sequence. According to Screenrant, a brake malfunction in the truck led to it plunging off the pier where the sequence was being shot into the sea. Statham could have drowned, but his deft swimming and survival skills helped him crawl out of the truck’s window and escape before it sank.

Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)

The poster of Mechanic: Resurrection shows Statham scaling a high-rise with a gun in hand.

It is not clear if part of the stunt, when performed in the film, featured CGI, but Jason Statham can be expected to undertake such daring feats in his movies all by himself — quite like Tom Cruise, who carried out one of the greatest stunts in movie history with the Burj Khalifa sequence in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011).

Nevertheless, Statham performed the stunt in the film. It is in this sequence that he eliminates his target while the latter is swimming in a glass-bottom pool jutting out of the top floor of the building.

“I think you have to get used to heights. You know, I’m not used to certain types of heights. But I don’t really get sort of a vertigo feeling,” Statham told Screenrant when asked to comment about the scene.

The Meg (2018)

The Meg is loosely based on the 1997 novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten. It is about the threat to the seas caused by a 23-metre megalodon shark. Chinese actors Li Bingbing and Winston Chao are among the main stars in the film.

Jason Statham didn’t actually battle a gigantic shark in The Meg. But, yes, some of the sequences in the water were real. And they were tough.

In an interview on Hollywood Outbreak, the actor said that he had to hang on to a structure resembling the shark’s head that the production team created, which was then rapidly moved about underwater.

“They pull it this way and they put it on a pulley that way. And it’s underwater so there’s so much resistance you know it can’t just be…it’s very hard to explain…if you’ve ever tried to be pulled at great speed underwater, everything wants to go on way but the body just resists against the mass of the water,” he said.

“It’s really tough to do to be thrashed around on [sic.]water is an impossible thing,” added Statham, underlining the difficulty of filming a key sequence in the film.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the first spin-off movie in the Fast & Furious franchise. Set after the events of The Fate of the Furious (2017), the eighth instalment in the series, the film revolves around the characters played by Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in the main franchise. The film also stars Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eiza González, Cliff Curtis and Helen Mirren in pivotal roles.

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Directed by David Leitch, the high-octane action movie features an array of death-defying stunts, some of which were performed by Jason Statham.

The most significant stunt scene that Statham himself executes is a chase sequence in what is depicted as a Ukraine warehouse in the film.

“It’s Jason driving,” Leitch said, according to the New York Post. “Because he’s so good, we felt comfortable putting him in that position.”

The film proved to be a blockbuster, earning over USD 760 million at the worldwide box office.

The Expendables 4 (2023)

Much of The Expendables 4 is CGI, as would be evident to anyone who watches movies with an eagle eye. But there are some original sequences as well. One of them is a motorcycle chase scene through the inside of a cargo ship. Even though it is filmed primarily on Statham, the coolest part of the stunt was performed by Australian stunt bike performer and X Games gold medalist Robbie Maddison.

Nevertheless, Statham got to do another major stunt on his own — and it was no less dangerous than any other because he had to go head-to-head with Indonesia action film icon and martial arts expert Iko Uwais. In fact, the film’s director, Scott Waugh, said that the fight sequence between the two is his personal favourite.

Uwais, who is trained in the Indonesian martial arts silat, is best known for the ground-breaking action film The Raid (2011) and its sequel The Raid 2 (2014).

“It’s got two great fight actors in cinema right now,” Waugh told Gamespot. “Obviously, Iko from The Raid. Everyone knows how b***** that guy is. And to put them together and let these two just go at it without stunt doubles and design an amazing fight. It’s, you know, four-and-a-half minutes long. It was, for me, awesome, and I think ends in absolute Expendables style.”

Meg 2: The Trench (2023)

Jason Statham reprises his role in the sequel to The Meg and, according to director Ben Wheatley, wherever audiences see him doing stunts “almost all of it is him.”

“Because the physics of a face are hard to fake — you have to be upside down to really look like you are upside down — we had Jason on this kind of giant hand drill set-up, and we’d pull the trigger and spin him around, firing water at his face,” said Wheatley.

“He wanted as few gimbal shots as possible, almost all of it is him -obviously not jumping a giant wave, but him riding a jet ski very, very quickly. And scarily, we were all at the monitors, saying, ‘Please come back all right!” added the director.

According to some reports, Statham even swam with real sharks to learn their behaviour. Filming was done mostly in Thailand, where huge tanks, some 18 metres wide and 5 metres deep, were set up for the water sequences. Of course, CGI has had a major role to play, but Statham is in almost all the water sequences in the film, including the ones where he is seen riding a jet ski at high speed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– Which was the best stunt by Jason Statham?

Jason Statham says that he shouldn’t have done a particular stunt in Transporter 2 because he did it without a harness and a mistake would have meant he would fall flat on his face at a speed of 30 miles per hour on the road.

– Which Jason Statham movie has the most stunts?

All movies of Jason Statham are action films, meaning that all of them are loaded with stunts. Some of them, which have quite a few dangerous stunts performed by the actor or body doubles, include Hobbs & Shaw and the films in The Expendables franchise.

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