It was 1998 when Jason Statham debuted in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and since that time the man has done a rather decent job of becoming a well-liked international action star. You've probably seen most of them: The Italian Job, War, The Bank Job, Death Race, The Mechanic, The Expendables, two Cranks, and three Transporters. Suffice to say that the guy works a bit harder than many of his more "dramatic" peers, but there's an undeniably cool tough guy vibe to Statham -- with just a smallest wink of irony -- that makes even his most disposable flicks worth checking out. (At least once.)
Now comes a light day's work for Mr. Statham: the British cop thriller Blitz, which is just about as simple and conventional as you can get without needing an epilogue that says "...next week on Blitz." Here we have a hard-headed, burnt-out, tough-guy detective who is a pain in the ass of his superiors (any of this sound familiar?) who gets enlisted to track down a vicious cop killer. In order to keep this patently generic concept afloat, we're also offered a smorgasbord of strange subplots and diversions. Detective Brant (Statham), for example, has a new superior who is openly gay. As played by Paddy Considine, the character is considerably more engaging on the screen than he would be on the page. And the "gay angle" goes nowhere. Ditto a narrative pothole involving a young policewoman (Zawe Ashton) who may have a problem with the crack pipe, as well as another thread that deals with a potentially sleazy newspaper reporter (David Morrissey).
Aside from the "cop hunts cop killer" material, which is familiar but not bad, each of these plot threads feel like moments being planted for "future episodes." But seeing as Blitz is (ostensibly) a feature film, these plot meanderings add up to nothing of interest. However, when Blitz sticks to the basic idea of "grizzled cop vs. hateful bastard," the movie does mange to exhibit a pulse. The over-the-top and virtually feral performance by Aidan Gillen (who looks like a young, Irish, psychotic Richard Gere) keeps the procedural material from ever becoming too dry, and Statham is on hand to, at least, offer a snarling authority figure who's slightly amusing, even in a concoction this plain and forgettable.