If you're a fan of action thrillers, the name Jason Statham on a movie tells you pretty much all you need to know: there will be a loner good-bad guy hero who gets involved in a complex criminal or espionage scheme, during the course of which trying to rescue someone or doing a necessary job he fights his way through various locations, dispatching an endless series of villains with his bare hands (and sometimes feet and head too) and various weapons, usually ending up doing the action hero equivalent of riding off into the sunset.
Safe follows the formula. The plot here concerns an 11 year old Chinese girl math prodigy who is kidnapped in China by a Triad who want to exploit her amazing ability to remember numbers for their own evil ends; they send her to New York where she draws the additional nefarious attentions of the Russian Mafia and a cabal of corrupt cops, from all of whom she is rescued by guess who.
I thought this was a better than average example of the genre. Catherine Chan does a good job as the child math prodigy, wisely underplaying her role, and the contrasting locales in China and various NYC environments add visual interest. If you're a fan of the genre, I think you'll like this one. If you haven't seen any action thrillers and want to try one out, this one might be a good choice. If you don't care for the genre, you'll probably want to skip it. My three star rating is based on how attractive I think the film would be to a general audience; if you're a fan of the genre, give it four stars.
Advisory: rated R, which I thought was rather surprising, since there's not much sex, language is fairly mild by current standards, and the violence, though pervasive, is not especially gory: as often, there is a certain video game quality to the series of bad guys getting blasted bam-bam-bam. I saw this on the Lion's Gate Region 1 Blu-Ray, which was of very good quality.
Initially pegged as gritty gangland thriller with tormented characterizations, bleak backstories and a dramatic undertow, Safe ultimately reverts to the standard testosterone- leaden formula. The predictable string of alpha-male money shots, clunky quips, hammy fist fights, repetitious gun battles and a massively garish body count gives double meaning to its somber title.
In China, 11 year old Mei (Catherine Chan) is a math prodigy. Her photographic mind functions much like a computer holding and processing numbers as required. But unlike a computer, Mei does not leave an information trail and unwittingly captures the attention of the Triad leader Han Jiao (James Hong).
Abducted and transported to New York, Mei's talents are exploited to benefit her new 'father' Quan Chang (Reggie Lee) in his illegal extortion schemes. After a year of loyal service, Mei is entrusted with memorizing a lengthy combination to a safe containing $30 million dollars but when transported to another site to receive further instructions, the motorcade is attacked and the young girl flees.
Caught in a betting scam with the Russian Mafia, ex-cop turned underground cage fighter Luke (Statham) returns home from a rigged fight to find his wife paying the ultimate price for his mistake. Making an example out of him, the godfather Docheski (Sando Tecsy) vows to make the rest of his life just as miserable.
Destitute, stricken by guild and tormented by their threat to kill anyone who shows him kindness more than basic conversational pleasantries, the banished Luke heads to the NYC subway to commit suicide. Distracted after witnessing a frightened Chinese girl hiding behind the station pillars, Luke impulsively jumps to her aid and straight into the middle of a deadly high stakes war.
Luke quickly discovers Mei is not only valuable to his own mental health but financially to the Triads, Mafia and a corrupt faction of the NYPD of which Luke despise alike, he takes it upon himself to stand as her protector, to keep her alive and safe no matter what the cost.
As the battle builds, it is revealed that Luke is not just an ex-beat cop but a former black-ops supercop. Formerly hired by the corrupt New York mayor (Chris Sarandon) to play the part of Travis Bickle and wipe criminal scum off the street, Luke became disillusioned by everything crooked.
The major pitfall to the premise is, Why? There are a few fleeting references as to the reason a man with no conceivable connection to a lost child would go to such extremes but none pay off and frankly its quite irrationally irritating just how disconnected this initial investment is. But I digress.
Although a little disorientated with the jump-cut editing, it is clear that writer/director Boaz Yakin's is obviously a talented action stylist. Astutely gravitating back to the collective memory of the sleazy and grungy pre-Guiliani gangsters' paradise of New York, Manhattan is once again a cesspool of shady officials, violent cops, mafia masterminds and treacherous triads .
The aesthetics of the project matched with the compelling (if not completely improbable) screenplay makes for a fairly intriguing set-up but all its teasing comes to naught. A few scenes boldly echo their cinematic influences of Unforgiven, The Borne Identity and even Ocean's Eleven but lack the substance and genuine style finishing as yet another cookie-cutter story about a one-man army of righteous revenge.
The Verdict: As standard Statham fare is to want, this movie quickly escapes reality, jumping straight in front of the preposterous bullet and landing bloody into ridiculous territory. With no moral grounding or emotional depth, like all Statham films all it is designed to do is quench the average red-blooded males need for mayhem.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 18/05/2012
Well worth a look, it's recommended and holds up well enough on the re-watch.
Safe is a very interesting movie starring Jason Statham who gives a very good performance.Also this movie has good directing with not-so-well shot action but the sound effects are awesome nonetheless.The story while a bit cliche,is still very interesting until the very end.I really enjoyed this movie it's certainly one of the better Statham action flicks overall.
It's always the Chinese, Russians and/or Albanians. So much for originality here. But let's see what we got here. Jason Statham plays Luke Wright, the ex-cage fighter mentioned above. He is also an ex-cop and ex-special forces agent. In addition to Statham, we have the always excellent James Hong, the versatile Reggie Lee and the surprising Anson Mount to round out the top of the cast.
Did I expect Academy Award level performances in this action movie? No. Did it deliver the action? Sure. But it all started a little slow. Instead of putting his assailants in their place with some swift and violent justice, mr. Luke Wright seems to go the depressed and moody route. The action picks up some pace later on. In between, the characters never really develop. I'm sure it was the intention for Luke to develop some kind of protective feelings for Mei, but it never really fleshes out in the story. How could it, with witty one-liners and heavy action in the second part of the film.
So that's what we get here: a flashy action flick with marginal attention to characters and story. If you're into that kind of thing, then go see it. It's pretty entertaining.