SAFE Review

There must have been an excess supply of fake guns, bullets, and blood laying around in a props department somewhere and someone was ordered to take care of it. The best way they knew how to resolve the problem was clearly to make a modest budget action flick and get Jason Statham to play the lead. This would guarantee that they'd make their money back and then some. The courtesy for human life in the chrome-domed actioners latest saga is set to zero as the body count climbs higher every few minutes. That's not to say this kind of redundancy doesn't still pack a punch. It certainly does. The kind of films that Statham participates in are more about the integrated sequences of action rather than the story that supports them, but credit must be given where it's due and in that regard "Safe" does try its hardest to build a twisted and engaging plot line that ends up being a rather routine corrupt cop drama. Still, it offers enough turns to keep you entertained. While "Safe" will likely rank more among the likes of "The Mechanic" and "Death Race" than with "The Bank Job" or "The Transporter" series when fans look back on his career it is nonetheless a fun and thrilling ride. While writer and director Boaz Yakin is not known for this kind of work (his previous directing credits include Remember the Titans and Uptown Girls) he does a fine job of navigating the shaky cam through the action and making sure his lead and only viable star in the film is made to look like he's supposed to. While you can't really call what Statham gives a performance, he shows his usual tender side that has made him the charming lead he has become. Don't be fooled though, he'll snap and leave you for dead if you go against him or his mission.

Luke Wright (Jason Statham) gets himself into some
serious trouble in Safe.
The one thing about flat out action flicks like "Safe" that seems to be present lately is that hint of self-awareness. While this is in no way makes reference to the fact it knows what kind of film it is, it plays up so many of the cliches of the genre we can't help but know they are laughing with us. Whether it be when Statham delivers lines like, "Don't worry, he had it comin" after disposing of some Russian gangsters on a subway or replying "Surprised I can even walk," after being told how big his balls must be for walking in on the Mayor of New York and threatening him. The one-liners hit and the crowd chuckles. The bullets fly and take out everyone we know needs to die and the crowd gasps. In fact, there is nothing risky about "Safe" at all. It is a paint by the numbers action flick and it knows it. If you have a problem with that then you have no business watching it. That's the attitude it carries and why shouldn't it? I don't at all have a problem with it, in fact I am a pretty avid fan of Statham and will always think of him as more of a straight up and down action star then The Rock (though he's gaining momentum) and Vin Diesel. I would probably watch Statham in just about anything (except for In the Name of the King, no sir Uwe Boll you won't trick me) and find something interesting I can latch onto. What the niche for me here was the switch up between gunplay and martial arts. While there are more than enough shoot outs here to last you a lifetime, "Safe" really gets down and dirty when it allows its star to go toe to toe with a baddie and show off his skills that haven't been utilized to their max since "Crank: High Voltage". With a good portion of the story line being devoted to a Triad gang it is interesting they didn't use more of the hand to hand fighting style. If there is a critique of the action to be made here, I believe it would be that.

Luke and Mei (Catherine Chan) become fast friends.
While it would be clear from the cast list and trailer that it takes a certain taste of the genre to enjoy this film, it should be noted that there is an attempt at actual storytelling here as well. Statham plays Luke Wright who, when we meet him, is a second rate cage fighter that has just blown a rigged fight that puts him in a bad spot with the Russian mafia. They naturally come for his family first and in the singular most touching scene in the film (they're pretty sparse believe it or not) Statham lets us in on what kind of man Luke is. Luke begins wandering the streets of New York riddled with guilt. On the other side of things Mei (Catehrine Chan), a young girl that is a genius at math and can memorize long sequences of numbers with her photographic memory is brought to the U.S. from China. She becomes caught in the middle of a war between the Triads who brought her over and the Russians who want the code that the Triad gang had her memorize. She is kidnapped by the Russians but is able to escape and make it to a train station where an impulsive Luke sees the men who killed his family and seeks revenge. He inadvertently puts himself into the middle of the war between the Triads and the Russians that also comes to include a group of corrupt NYC cops. Surprise, surprise there's more to this than you might expect. Maybe a hidden past for Luke that didn't always involve cage fighting? Yea, probably so. It plays out in a manner so slick and calculated that you can't help but want to drive off after exiting the theater feeling as if you'd just taken care of business yourself. It leaves that kind of impression, and in my books, it could be a lot worse.

"I'm Jason Statham and this is my money shot!"
While looking at Mr. Statham's IMDB page will probably make you wonder how many more times he can do this before they run out of premises for him to skate by on the answer is clearly never. Every few years he has the option of likely doing another "Transporter" or "Crank" film and also has the hugely successful "Expendables" brand attached to his name that will likely allow it soar even higher after part two is released this August. Statham has a loyal fan base and keeps a steady flow of films coming. Whether they turn out to be theatrical releases or straight to DVD titles it doesn't matter. The man has become a brand and he will only continue to use the successful formula that has put him where he's at now. What makes the guy stand out from every other actor trying to establish themselves in the genre is the fact he can show range if he needs to. "Safe" allows only a slight peek at this during the scenes he and his young co-star Chan share together. There is a humanity to the brutality we are accustomed to seeing. That he is able to show this in the quieter scenes while maintaining his credibility as a human being after stabbing a man in the neck with a fork is slightly discomforting, but in the same way reassuring. He is the guy you don't want to mess with but the friend that you would love to have on your team. That is the magic of Statham and that is why he keeps getting asked to make movies and why people continue to go see them.