It’s been a long, long time since audiences were sweating palms to Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed duke it out in the ring, or Ex- Governator Ah-nold causing some over-exaggerated explosions.  Times have also changed in regards to the definition of what an action star is.

Audiences have grown tired of the predictable one-liners and plots that seemed to grace most of the action films of the 80’s and 90’s. It also seems that many big time film stars these days are definitely mixing it up with doing both action and serious roles.    With the more serious type thespians like, Mark Wahlberg, Ryan Reynolds, or Matt Damon trying their hands with some intense skull cracking from time to time – being the current generations’ best film action hero is quite a feat in any film critics’ book.

Enter Jason Statham.   Where did this guy come from?

He was quite memorable as the same wise talking Turkish in the Guy Ritchie films, but who knew he was armed with some of the fastest fists and feet since Chuck Norris?!  Now one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, Statham is also maybe the only actor in history – that has been able to “crank” out (no pun intended) tolerable action movies one after the other, and remain one of the coolest action stars since ….Mad Max maybe?

With that rugged English drawl and buzzed hairline – the guy can probably get away with making gardening seem tough.  Over the past decade, the actor has graced almost every type of action film and seems to have changed the way audiences have previously viewed the typical “action star”.   Big time directors and studios love Statham while icon heavyweights like, Robert De Niro , have team up with him.

So what is it about this feisty English dude that seems to be charming his way into Hollywood’s action hall of fame?  Ever since The Transporter hit the box office, the guy hasn’t quit – and fans love it.  With Safe coming out this weekend, let’s take a look at some of Statham’s most successful films to date:

The One (2001)

Statham teams up with his first movie with Jet Li and the two go at it head to head in this Sci-fi action flick with some amazing fight choreographies.  This movie sort of introduced Statham as a possible action film star.

The Transporter (2002)
It wasn’t until Statham got into a 1999 black BMW 735 IL and proved some serious driving talent all the while showing that he also had some equally serious karate kicks under his resume.  He plays a mercenary who specializes in moving goods from one place to another.  Light bulbs set off all over the heads of audiences finding a new action star and Hollywood studios seeing dollar signs.

The Italian Job (2003)

Statham gets behind the steering wheel again as Handsome Rob and teams up with a superb cast including Mark Wahlberg and Edward Norton, as they attempt an elaborate gold heist against an old teammate.

Transporter 2 (2005)

Fans and studios couldn’t get enough as Statham returns as the uber cool transporter Frank Martin, and he becomes implicated in the kidnapping of a powerful U.S. official’s son.

Crank (2006)
This film embodies everything an action film needs and then some.   Statham plays a professional assassin who gets injected with a poison that will kill him if his heart rate slows down.   This leaves the movie with nothing except heart stopping suspense and action as Statham hits the streets without stopping in desperate search of a cure.   It’s hilarious to watch him do everything and anything to keep his adrenaline going, which means eating and snorting anything that will help that.

War (2007)

Statham and Jet Li go at it again in this film about an FBI agent who is after an assassin who killed his partner.  Expect plenty of scene by scene fight sequences.

The Bank Job (2008)

Packed with suspenseful car chases and gun play – Statham portrays a bank robber who gets a tip on fool proof plan on robbing some safe deposit boxes.  Unfortunately, the boxes contain secrets to individuals that set out to kill Statham and his crew.

Death Race (2008)
Jason Statham must love racing cars, because here is another one of him doing exactly that.   He stars as a wrongfully imprisoned man who has no choice but to enter a deadly race controlled by an evil prison warden.  Lots of fights, and a lot of bloody car racing.

Transporter 3 (2008)

A lot like the first two films where Frank Martin gets mixed up with kidnappers and has to fight his way out, all the while trying to dodge his personal feelings about the damsel in distress.

Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Sort of the same plot as the first Crank film as Statham returns in search of a cure for his heart that now requires jolts of electricity to keep working.   He uses everything from car batteries to telephone pole wires to jumpstart himself.

The Expendables (2010)

Statham gets to team up with some of the “old-school” action stars Stallone, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren and ….Mickey Rourke?!   He plays part of a team of mercenaries that are given an assignment to take out a corrupt military leader.   Was it good?  Not at all…but when will you ever get to see all these guys act together again?  Oh wait….the word on the street is there’s a sequel.

The Mechanic (2011)
One of my personal Statham favorites – he plays an elite hit man that takes on an apprentice who has sentimental feelings towards one of his previous victims.

Killer Elite (2011)

Teaming up with Robert De Niro seemed like an easy blockbuster.  Not sure if it did as well as studios were hoping for in the box office, but there is definitely plenty of action.  Part of it might be because the filmmakers never seemed to exploit De Niro up to his capabilities, all the while leaving a lot of loose ends and empty plots.  Based on actual events, Statham plays a retired member of Britian’s Special Air Service that is forced into action when his ex-teammate (De Niro) is held captive.   There’s plenty of gun play and fighting to make any fan forget about the confusing plot.