Action legends Jet Li and Jason Statham have appeared in five movies together so far – here’s their team-ups ranked worst to best. Jet Li is a martial arts star who made a name for himself in the Once Upon A Time In China movies and 1994’s Fist OF Legend, which featured fight sequences that would be influential on The Matrix. Li later made appearances in English language productions like Lethal Weapon 4, Kiss Of The Dragon and The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor.
Jason Statham had an odd path to action stardom, first appearing in crime comedies like Guy Ritchie’s Snatch before moving into supporting roles with the likes of John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars. It was 2002’s The Transporter that established his leading man credentials, which were greatly aided by his ability to perform his own martial arts. In addition to two Transporter sequels, he’s appeared in Crank, Death Race, and The Meg. He made a cameo in Fast & Furious 6 as Deckard Shaw, a villain who would gradually evolve into an anti-hero over the course of numerous sequels. He also co-starred with Dwayne Johnson in spinoff Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Jet Li and Jason Statham have crossed paths many times onscreen, so let’s take a look back on their collaborations.
5. The Expendables 3
The third and least of the trilogy, The Expendables 3 is a vapid blockbuster that sold out the franchise’s claim to 1980s action nostalgia when it went PG-13 in the hopes of broadening its appeal. Statham is typically a highlight of the movies but is sidelined for much of this third outing to make way for new recruits, while Li only arrives in the final act and has little to do; neither he nor Statham share any real screentime either.
War is built around the premise of the two action stars pummeling each other, with Jason Statham’s vengeful cop blaming his partner’s death on Jet Li’s mysterious assassin. While the movie has a couple of genuinely decent twists the pacing is sluggish and the action is forgettable, which sadly includes the brief final dust-up between Statham and Li.
3. The One
The One was originally earmarked as a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, who was replaced by Jet Li. This 2001 action film is very much of its era, featuring a gloriously dated nu-metal soundtrack – including staples like “Bodies and “Last Resort” – and Matrix-aping bullet time. The story finds Li being chased by an evil, alternate universe hopping version of himself who is, in turn, hunted by Statham’s multiverse cop. The One is a relic of the early 2000s but its an entertainingly cheesy one. Statham was also forced to use an ill-fitting American accent for his role and was disappointed when a planned fight scene between him and Li was scrapped before filming.
2. The Expendables
The Expendables was originally pitched as a serious action thriller uniting Sly Stallone, Statham and Li, but excitement over the project saw it morph into a love letter to 1980s action instead, and it gathered more icons like Lundgren, Willis, and Schwarzenegger. The Expendables has some good action and when it all works its can be fun, though the mix of parody and introspective drama never quite gels.
1. The Expendables 2
The Expendables 2 is the closest the series has come to working, offering R-rated action with entertaining interplay between action legends. It has the best setpieces and villain in Jean-Claude Van Damme but is let down by some truly appalling attempts at comedy – namely Chuck Norris’ introduction – and CGI blood spray. Jet Li literally parachutes out of the sequel following the opening too, which is a bummer, and due to his filming schedule, he and Jason Statham are never actually onscreen at the same time.