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Box Office Success of “The Meg” Proves Jason Statham Should Be Bigger Star

Old-school action hero fights CGI sharks while pretty boys in spandex get plum super hero pics.

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How many giant prehistoric sharks does Jason Statham have to kill before Hollywood notices?

The 51-year-old British actor scored the No. 1 movie at the box office at the box office this weekend with The Meg, which debuted in the top spot with $44.5 million domestically and $141.3 million worldwide.

That certainly counts as a win, a much higher opening than most industry experts predicted. But it also counts as a reminder that Statham is a bonafide action star confined to largely B-movies while the A-list pretty boys get the plum action tentpoles.

Statham, though, could probably take on all four of the Chrises — Pratt, Evans, Hemsworth and Pine — at the same time in an off-screen fight.  And while the former Olympic diver (yes, he does look the part diving in the water to take on a megalodon shark) has held his own in the recent Fast & Furious movies, he is noticeably much further down the marquee than stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, another old-school hero type. Perhaps that will change with the upcoming spinoff to that car chase franchise, Hobbs and Shaw.

“He’s always the guy who delivers and he just makes it look so easy that we just discount his drawing power,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior box office analyst for ComScore, told RealClearLife.

“The guy has charm and humor wrapped up in a body that could kick your ass.”

Statham is a throwback to the old-school action hero that once dominated the genre — from Steve McQueen to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Men’s men who, if they weren’t performing a stunt or a fight sequence themselves could certainly sell it.

In recent years, however, there has been a shift to special effects-driven action scenes as the studios have come to lean more on super hero and sci-fi tentpoles to pad their ledgers. That allows Paul Rudd to transition from an awkward romantic comedy lead to a bonafide superhero in the Ant-Man movies.

That’s no disrespect to the wonderful Rudd, but perhaps there could be a few bigger budget action scripts through Statham’s way. (Cough, cough, Marvel’s Moon Knight?) He certainly deserves better than the occasional Transporter or Crank sequel. Statham proved he could hit comedic timing with the same speed as he could a good roundhouse kick with his role as a grumpy secret agent in the Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Spy.

“He’s like a lead character actor: He doesn’t fit the traditional mold anymore, which makes it tougher to get the leading roles,” said Dergarabedian.

There does seem to be an appetite for more stunt-driven fare: Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the latest installment of the franchise that pits Tom Cruise against his own mortality, earned another $20 million in its third weekend to bring its 17-day total in North America to $162 million.  The global total is an impressive $437.6 million and counting.

As for Statham, Dergarabedian foresees a potential renaissance in his fifties much like Cruise or Liam Neeson.

“He delivers some of our best action movie sequences without a lot of fanfare,” said Dergarabedian. “But maybe now (with The Meg‘s box office win) he’ll get more credit.”