Movie Review: Safe
Let us create ‘Untitled Jason Statham Project.”
We have a room with several dart boards with plot and character devices, the first of which has random assortment of enemies. Three hits gives us Statham versus corrupt cops, Chinese gangsters, and the Russian mob. A second board will offer us Statham’s unlikely partner and target of the seedy underworld. Will it be a young male runaway? A visible minority with quirk? No, it’s a 13-year old sassy and gifted Chinese girl. Lastly we need a title. ‘Blood,’ ‘Violence,’ ‘Guns,’ ‘Gangs,’ are all possibilities, but maybe too generic and War was already used by another Statham movie. Throw something at the board, and we have Safe, just generic enough, and now we have completed making a 2012 action movie.
The film of course tries to be more complex than that, but the Boaz Yakin-directed action thriller starring Statham, filled with blood, violence, guns, and gangs, is incredibly self aware and spot on with tone. It is silly at times without being cheesy, violent and gratuitous without being completely emotionless, and at times, even surprising.
Statham is a Luke Wright, a former cop (with a past) whose brief stint as an ultimate fighter finds him on the wrong side of the Russian mob when he doesn’t follow their instructions. A dead wife later, and a threat to kill everyone in his life he befriends, leaves Jason Wright with little to live for.
Until of course, he happens to encounter the young Mei who is clearly being chased down by unsavory parties. Wright, without hesitation, in the noble Statham way, throws himself between her and danger, and the body count quickly piles up for anything in front of them. And behind them. And really all around them—there are lots of innocent bystanders.
This film could be Rambo in Brooklyn for the amount of bloodshed, death, and gunfire though doesn’t quite hit as hard, but it’s still pretty hard. Chaos surrounds Mei and bullets fly surprising close, for she is a girl with a gift. She is a child genius, with an exceptional memory, one that gets exploited and allows for no paper trail in whatever seedy business you which to undertake.
For the generic premise, the film is satisfying and entertaining, with genuine shocks and chuckles along the way. Unlike recent actions film, in particular the frenetic and gritty Safe House (no relation), Yakin films action scenes that are controlled and easy to follow. Even in small quarters-clubs and hallways—the action is coherent and engaging and does not fall into a common trap of quick cuts and close ups.
Be prepared for a lot of shooting, especially some unexpected bullets, because no one is safe. Though perhaps to the filmmakers credit, or to their detriment, Statham does not utter such a clichéd line as Safe seems to know exactly what it is doing and what it is.