Jason Statham Seeks Redemption In Gritty Safe!


Safe is an unusual action film – at least for Jason Statham. It’s a combination of disparate elements that work together in unexpected ways to create a wildly entertaining experience.

Eleven-year old Mei [Catherine Chan] is kidnapped by the Triads to exploit her amazing mathematical genius by having her memorize all their accounts [computers leave trails…], but after learning a complex set of numbers, she is kidnapped by the Russian mo. Add crooked cops and a gritty ‘70s nihilism – and shooting style – and the result is not unlike certain Charles Bronson movies.

Jason Statham comes in as Luke Wright, a former top-turned-cage fighter whose failure to throw a fight gets his wife killed by the Russian mob and promised that he will be watched – anyone he even might become attached to will then be killed.

As he contemplates suicide – by throwing himself in front of a subway train – Mei, who has managed to escape her Russian captors passes by and, rather than cause her pain from seeing his suicide, he steps back. For whatever reason, he notices that she is hiding from three men – Russian mobsters he’s encountered before – and decides to help her.

From this point on, it’s action, Statham-style, with some twists.

The complexity of the plot finds Luke pulling a Yojimbo-style strategy – he appears to take sides and uses the three corrupt factions against each other. Meanwhile, he’s figuring out why Mei’s numbers are so important. He’s quick, clever and so effective, once he starts looking out for Mei, that a revelation that comes late in the game is more of a ‘D’OH!’ moment than anything else.

Statham and Chan have good chemistry and Chan more than holds her own in scenes with him, James Hong [as a Triad boos who has come to New York to take personal charge] and Reggie Lee [Grimm], as Triad underboss Quan Chang [her adoptive ‘father’].

The script, by director Boaz Yakin, uses the complexities of the four-point conflict – five, when the city’s sleazy mayor [Chris Sarandon] becomes involved – to unleash a barrage of mayhem that is both brutal and wittily staged. It also gives Statham to show hints of the range he’s only used in the criminally under seen The Bank Job.

For every new wrinkle, though, Yakin also provides Statham with a number of hard-boiled quips, generating laughs at key moments – frequently offsetting outbursts of violence, or provoking would-be antagonists.

Yakin does a good job of keeping the film’s almost violence-free set-up moving by cutting between Luke’s hellish situation and Mei’s. When the violence comes – and goes way beyond anything we might be expecting – the film’s pace doesn’t really need to accelerate all that much.

Of course, like most of Statham’s films, Safe’s plot doesn’t really hold up to close scrutiny, but that’s not exactly news. It more than makes up any inconsistencies through the panache with which it has been produced – and some sparkling performances by character actors Robert John Burke, Sándor Técsy [the head of the Russian mob], and Anson Mount [the mayor’s right-hand man].

Safe is spectacular, dirty [as in getting your hands dirty] fun.

Final Grade: B+