The Meg, out Friday, pits Jason Statham against a giant prehistoric shark. It is a perfect movie. Sorry — almost a perfect movie. The only thing that can really be said against it is that it takes our preeminent bald action hero and deprives him of one of the hallmarks of his illustrious career: really deranged character names. Statham plays a rescue-op expert named Jonas Taylor — a goofy name in its own right, to be sure, but nothing close to his batshit monikers past.
You can’t blame The Meg for that name, as it’s based on a 1997 book that predates the movie that kicked off Statham’s run of weird character names by one year. And some of Statham’s key franchises admittedly saddle him with dull names unbefitting his glorious naming legacy: “Frank Martin” in the Transporter movies and “Arthur Bishop” for the Mechanic series. But, taken as a whole, only two actors can come close to the over-the-top, “real people aren’t named like this” buffoonery of Jason Statham’s filmography: Mark Wahlberg (Dirk Diggler, Cade Yeager, Dusty Mayron, Bob Lee Swagger) and Matthew McConaughey (Palmer Joss, Denton Van Zan, Dirk Pitt, Moondog).
“Statham’s a magnet for the absurd names,” says Crank and Crank: High Voltage co-writer/director Mark Neveldine. “It’s his look, his presence, his voice. He can truly pull it off.” The ability to infuse the most ridiculous possible situations with a brow-furrowed gravitas is what makes Statham work so well as an action star and, when required, a comedy MVP. Who can forget, “This arm has been ripped off completely and reattached with this fucking arm”?
Below, we rank Statham’s most ridiculous character names, from least to most wild.
12. Yves Gluant, The Pink Panther
In the Steve Martin–starring Pink Panther reboot, Jason Statham has an uncredited cameo as a French soccer coach named “Yves Gluant.” See, the joke is that he’s Jason Statham, whose image is very working-class English, except here he’s playing … a French dude. It’s all very complex.
11. Deckard Shaw, the Fast and Furious franchise
“Deckard Shaw” is less goofy than it is over-the-top masculine in a cartoonish sort of way, which of course puts it right in line with the rest of the Fast and Furious franchise. (As always, #JusticeforHan.)
10. Handsome Rob, The Italian Job
He’s handsome, and his name is Rob. Unimaginative, but accurate.
9. Jensen Garner Ames, Death Race
“Jensen Garner Ames” is not the name of a former race-car driver framed for the murder of his wife so he can be incarcerated in a for-profit prison system under which drivers are forced to participate in deadly races in order to win their freedom. It’s the name of a star on a middling CW sitcom. A husband in the Real Housewives franchise — a real-estate lawyer, maybe, or a plastic surgeon, one who’s successful but not too successful, and definitely one who has hair plugs.
8. Evan Funsch, The One
You’d expect a man named “Evan Funsch” who explains Multiverse Theory to Jet Li to be played by, I dunno, Paul Giamatti? But no. It’s Jason Statham.
7. Farmer, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Not even the prospect of Jason Statham playing a farmer named — wait for it — Farmer can make this Uwe Boll movie worthwhile. It’s not exactly a surprise that a movie called In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale should have problems with naming things, but seriously, what in the sweet Uwe Boll hellscape is this? I don’t know if it’s better or worse that Farmer’s backstory involves him being a toddler waddling around a battlefield, only to be found and (presumably) named by a thoroughly unimaginative Ron Perlman. Asked whether this man actually has a real name, his wife responds, “Your father believes people become what they do.” Jason Statham’s character could, by this logic, be called “Expert Boomerang Wielder,” “Emotionally Constipated Man Incapable of Telling His Wife He Loves Her,” or “Magical Book Tornado.” Yes, Jason Statham uses a boomerang and turns into a book tornado. No, don’t watch this movie.
6. Nick Wild, Wild Card
It would be weird if your last name was “Wild” and you weren’t Wild, right? Like, if Jason Statham’s character in this Vegas-set pulp/drama/actioner (it’s a weird movie) were an actuary who visits Vegas for a long weekend to play $10 craps and not a gambling-addicted bodyguard who stabs Milo Ventimiglia in the face with a butter knife.
5. Terry Leather, The Bank Job
The Bank Job — about the 1971 robbery of the contents of hundreds of safe deposit boxes in a London bank, including one that supposedly contained, ahem, compromising photos of Princess Margaret — is loosely based on a true story. None of the perpetrators have ever been definitively identified, though, so when it came to naming duties, the screenwriters of The Bank Job had creative license. For the salt-of-the-earth, tough-yet-tender family man who leads the gang? “Terry Leather.” A bit on the nose, but sure. The “Terry” is a nice touch. Keeps him from feeling like a Tom of Finland character.
4. and 3. Turkish (Snatch) and Bacon (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
Guy Ritchie set Jason Statham down the path of glorious character names in 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and 2000’s Snatch. In both, he plays a man who (in true Guy Ritchie fashion) gets involved in criminal shenanigans that get way more involved than he anticipated. “Turkish,” at least, gets an explanation: He was named after a plane crash. But “Bacon”? Is that his first name or his last name? Or is it his name at all? Is he really called “Dave”? Did he spring into the world fully formed, a Cockney-accented gangster Boss Baby with the body of an infant and the head of an adult, fully formed Jason Statham? Mysteries whose answers are lost in the wind.
2. Lee Christmas (The Expendables trilogy)
The Expendables movies are rife with character names that are stupid (“Barney Ross”), really stupid (“Toll Road”), offensively stupid (“Let’s name the Asian guy, uh, ‘Yin Yang.’ And make a whole bunch of jokes about how short he is. Yeah”), and excellent (“Terry Crews is … Hale Caesar”). Jason Statham as a knife expert named “Lee Christmas” falls in the excellent category, and the fact that Sylvester Stallone works an “It’s Christmastime” into the script of the first film is admirable. But really, you couldn’t have gotten a “Christmas comes but once a year” joke in there? That’s what aggressively straight dudes do, right? Sit around and talk about each other’s penises?
1. Chev Chelios, Crank and Crank: High Voltage
Of course, no one can beat “Chev Chelios,” the only possible character name for a live-action Grand Theft Auto character who has to inhale coke and zap himself with defibrillators to stay alive.
Chev Chelios is not only the best Jason Statham character name; it is very possibly the best character name in all of film history, in part because its origin story involves the time-honored tradition of dunking on someone. In an interview exclusively with me — the person who will DM one of the writer-directors of Crank and Crank: High Voltage at 1:30 in the morning to ask about what stroke of heavenly insight led to the name “Chev Chelios” — Mark Neveldine broke it down. He and fellow Crank writer-director Brian Taylor were working their first paying film gig, “and this dude on set kept bragging about about drinking out of the Stanley Cup with [three-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Chelios]. ‘I was just drinkin’ outta the Stanley Cup with Chelios last night, bro. Just last night! Bro, fuckin’ Chelios!’” I’m a huge hockey player/fan and love Chelios, but the way the dude was saying his name made Brian and I laugh our asses off … And what’s more [manly] than ‘Chev’? Put those together and you have a fuckin’ beast of a character.”
Adds Taylor, “‘Chev Chelios’ was 90 percent to make Mark laugh, because we goofed on the Stanley Cup guy so much.” The other 10 percent was Neveldine and Taylor “going for a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics alliteration feeling, i.e. Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Doctor Doom, etc. … If there ever were a Jack Kirby character come to life, it’s Jason in Crank!”
Bonus: “Silver-Painted Dancer,” Erasure’s “Run to the Sun” music video
Behold your God.