Don’t let the tepid response to Mechanic: Resurrection fool you: Jason Statham kicks ass. Of the 42 movies he’s appeared in, he has spent roughly 35 of them exacting unique and complete vengeance on those people who do him wrong (or, more often, the assorted thugs, goons, and thick-necked nobodies dispatched by the wrongdoers in proxy). His inconquerability is so absolute, in fact, that it gives rise to a daunting epistemological question: If Jason Statham’s movie characters fought each other, who would win?
That’s just the sort of debate we Stat-Hams thrive on, and so we’ve set out to resolve it. Though every Statham action hero could theoretically contend, we focused on his most prominent franchise work: The Transporter, Crank, The Expendables, and The Mechanic. (For our purposes we will not count the Fast movies, because he joined them in progress as ancillary character).
Each character received a seed based on the strength of his franchise. Frank Martin from The Transporter is the No. 1 seed, owing to the fact that he featured in a trilogy. Lee Christmas from The Expendables is the No. 2 seed, since that, too, was a triology, but an ensemble one. Chev Chelios from Crank takes the third seed based on the strength of carrying two movies, and Arthur Bishop of The Mechanic will be the fourth seed, since he’s the latest to get the sequel treatment.
Got it? Great! Let the imaginary fights begin:
Frank Martin (1) v. Arthur Bishop (4)
It’s accepted that every Statham character is physically equal to every other Statham character, so victory in the first round comes down to the intangibles. In order to qualify for the marquee matchup, the characters will have to demonstrate their cunning. While we hate to cast aspersions on the prowess of Arthur Bishop, an elite assassin who was characterized as “a goddamn machine” by Donald Sutherland in the first Mechanic, his showdown against The Transporter’s Martin is barely a fair fight. Martin’s signature is taking on a ridiculous number of foes at the same time and emerging basically unscathed — in all three Transporters, the main event features Miller facing off against five to ten armed foes. This moment from Transporter 2 is a pretty apt representation of what Frank Martin deals with on the reg:
But no matter how many axes they swing at him, the original driver with a code (sorry, Ryan Gosling) always prevails. If you want to see a virtuoso display of resourcefulness, witness Martin humiliating a cluster of henchmen with nothing but a firehose and a right foot oh-so-deadly.
Up against that, Bishop is simply outclassed. In the first Mechanic we actually see his co-star Ben Foster fight more than he does. And while he puts up a classic Statham showing in the Final Boss battle of Mechanic, using a fire extinguisher pin as a weapon, it feels pedestrian next to Martin’s MacGyverian accomplishments.
The coup de grace: shirt-as-weapon. Martin advances to the Championship Bout.
Lee Christmas (2) v. Chev Chelios (3)
If we’re gauging success based on creativity, it seems like Chev Chelios from Crank should take this one in a walk. The guy spent an entire movie devising batshit-crazy ways to stay alive as a super-deadly Chinese poison coursed through his bloodstream, then spent the sequel trying to keep electricity running through his mechanical heart through such means as (a) having a nurse defibrillate him and (b) jump-starting his heart by hooking a car battery to his tongue. In Crank 2, he fell from a helicopter and was blown up by a transformer on a telephone pole and still survived to beat the hell out of a guy while his whole body was on fire. (It’s like Rick Ford said: “Not the car. I was on fire.”)
But don’t be fooled: Chelios channeled more of his energy into staying alive than he did in straight-up fighting other people. So while he may be the most durable Statham hero, it’s Lee Christmas, the mercenary from The Expendables series, who has the upper hand. A fight between the two would be a headache, and Christmas would have to kill Chelios at least four times to make it stick, but Christmas has both greater proficiency with more weapons than Chelios, and is trained to neutralize a much higher caliber of fighter — Chelios takes down scrubs on the streets of L.A., while the Expendable is squaring off against paramilitary forces. Christmas also makes use of his surroundings, turning the environment into his weapon, as evidenced by this scene from The Expendables 2:
Chev is definitely a fan favorite, and he puts up one hell of a fight, but Christmas takes him down to advance to the title bout against Frank Martin.
Frank Martin (1) v. Lee Christmas (2)
Whereas the semifinal round was based on skills and technical ability, the championship fight comes down to one simple criterion: Who rose to the occasion and put up the best single fight in any entry of their respective franchise? In other words, with each warrior in peak form, which one would prevail?
The first step is determining each character’s rumble par excellence. A standout scene from The Expendables series was when Christmas beat the hell out of his ex-wife’s boyfriend and his entire pick-up basketball team:
That scene was a lot of fun, and Charisma Carpenter will surely never forget the moment she realized she let the Stath get away, but it’s really just Christmas punching down. So, for Christmas’s best fight we submit the superlative Priest scene from Expendables 2, when he took down half a dozen men with his fists ‘n’ feet, signature knives, and a thurible. It’s efficient, effective, and abounding with Statham style points:
Picking a moment for our top seed is tougher. It’s almost easier to beat Jason Statham in a fight than it is to pick his best Transporter brawl. If Frank Martin was an actual weapon instead of a ManWeapon, he would be a guided missile, a bunker-buster who doesn’t just beat your army; he razes your forces to the ground and destroys all hope for the future. Arguably no throwdown better illustrates Martin’s towering threat level than his greased-up ass-kicking party from the movie that started it all:
First there’s that trademark shirt-weapon:
Before a demonstration of true combat brilliance, with Martin deliberately soaking himself and the fighting space in oil and then snapping the pedals off a bicycle, he creates ad-hoc spikes for his shoes to give himself the competitive advantage over everyone else.
As deadly as Christmas may be, Martin spent three movies being the consistently more interesting, resourceful fighter. When Martin sees ten men running after him with axes and swords, he doesn’t keep running. He stops in his tracks and welcomes them to his playground of nightmares. Statham laid the groundwork for his entire career in that one perfect action sequence from his first Transporter movie, and the student of Christmas never quite surpasses the Master that is Martin. It was a good fight. A fair fight. And as with any Statham spectator sport, the real winner is his audience.