Steven Knight, writer and first-time director of the somber action drama "Redemption," partly redeems this middling effort by attempting a brains-over-brawn approach despite the presence of ubiquitous movie tough guy Jason Statham in the lead. Unfortunately, this tale of Joey Jones (Statham), a haunted, disgraced ex-Special Forces officer living on the streets of London who befriends Sister Cristina (Agata Buzek), a wildly conflicted Polish nun, gets tripped up by a kind of forced nobility that never quite squares with the movie's sporadic mayhem.
Knight, who also explored London's shadowy side in past screenplays "Dirty Pretty Things" and "Eastern Promises," fills his story with too many contrivances — not to mention narrative strands — while concocting a temporary new life for alcoholic loner Joey, landing him a job as headcracker for a Chinese mobster (Benedict Wong), sending him in pursuit of a teenage prostitute's killer and helping him right wrongs with his estranged ex-wife (Vicky McClure) and their young daughter.
That Joey, when initially on the run here, literally falls into — and then conveniently takes over — an upscale apartment, spiffy wardrobe and, at times, identity of the empty pad's out-of-town gay photographer is almost as unconvincing as the lantern-jawed former soldier's flirtation with the mousy Cristina.
Still, Statham's broody charisma and veteran cinematographer Chris Menges' ("The Killing Fields") eclectic views of contemporary London help hold interest, even as we ponder what Knight is really trying to say.
MPAA rating: R for strong brutal violence, graphic nudity and language.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun