Jason Statham is to lads what 90s Leonardo DiCaprio was to hair: an inspiration, a saviour, something that crept into popular culture unannounced at just the right time, as if to say, “I am what you needed all along, and you didn't even realise it.”
Known primarily for his roles in ultraviolent “wink wink, oi oi” action thrillers like Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Italian Job, and a bunch of films just like The Italian Job that aren’t The Italian Job, Jason Statham is arguably Britain’s most beloved hardman. Yes, his hair seems to have been thinning since birth, but does that stop him from being really, really good at dating models? Absolutely not. He does all his own stunts, has a neck the width of three tyres, and constantly looks about 2 seconds away from curb stomping you for eating his Snickers out of the fridge.
In the past, he’s described himself as a “working class James Bond – a Bond who drinks Heineken and not Dom Perignon”. In essence, Jason Statham does not play characters, he bends characters until they are simply Jason Statham. The Lad Bible probably have framed magazine covers of him in their office. He is an archetype of British masculinity that leaves men across the nation emotionally torn between wanting to be him and wishing he was their dad.
Which, in my opinion, makes it all the more amazing that he cut his teeth as a greased up topless go-go dancer in 90s pop music videos.
Exhibit A: “Comin’ On” by The Shamen, released in 1993.
I think my favourite thing about this video isn’t the fact that the only thing Jason Statham is wearing is a pair of pants borrowed from the wardrobe of a George of the Jungle-themed porno; that he appears entirely wet-shaved, like a hairless cat being washed in the sink; or even that someone had to purchase approximately 5 bottles of baby oil to get him looking the way he does. No, my favourite thing, actually, is just how GOOD Jason Statham is at what I’m guessing is unchoreographed, “just go for it, mate” club dancing.
I won’t tell you exactly when he comes in, because I think the payoff is much greater when it’s a surprise. Suffice to say: you are not ready. You will never be ready. There are people lying in hospital beds right now because they drastically overestimated how ready they were. Let’s take a break here, while you absorb what is going on, and continue after this announcement:
Right, are you with me? Did you SEE that shimmy? That pop? That series of fist pumps so sincere, so full of emotion, that every single one of them deserves an Oscar? This video may be the most ridiculous thing ever built on the concept of an acid trip, which is really quite an accolade in itself, but Jason Statham is nonetheless a professional. Nobody has gone for anything harder than Jason Statham went for this choreography. We should really update the common saying to: “If you want something done right, call Jason Statham”.
Exhibit B: “Run to the Sun” by Erasure, released in 1994.
After watching the first video more times than I am willing to admit, I was afraid that nothing would ever shock, impress, or thrill me in the same way again. But that was before I found out that Jason Statham also featured in Erasure’s video for “Run to the Sun” as some sort of futuristic cage dancer.
Observe, as Statham zooms around the screen like a Silver Surfer at a Peckham warehouse party. Here is a working-class bloke raised by street markets and pub lunches, who went on to become famous for roles as a boxing promoter, maximum-security con, and "premiere wheelman" among others – basically, the kind of man who would end you for glancing at his girlfriend. Here is a bloke your da has a secret “man crush” on. A bloke so ridiculously hard he actually turned down a role as Charles Bronson. And he is striking poses in leather shorts spray painted to match his little superman boots, possibly inventing duckface at the same time.
So, after all this, what have we learned?
Well, for starters we can add "the Adonis of house music" to Jason Statham's cultural CV, and start referring to him as a sort of spray-painted Statue of David that should have been erected in the Hacienda. We can also praise him for the existential crisis he is about to retrospectively inflict on macho blockbuster British masculinity. I mean, this would be like young American dudes finding out Bruce Willis did a pole dance in a Cyndi Lauper video. This is like your older brother finding out Liam Neeson was in Showgirls.
Yes, flexing his moves and muscles with equal fervour, there is an untold beauty to the idea that Mr Transporter Jason Statham quietly blew the (bloody) doors off the hardman aesthetic before he'd even invented the hardman aesthetic. A Heineken-quaffing Bond, sure, but also, Britain's lowkey GOAT striptease performer.
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