It’s easy to look at Safe and dismiss it as yet another Jason Statham action fest, and while that’s not necessarily far from the mark, it does the film a degree of disservice. At the same time however, this isn’t the revelation that’s going to change your opinion on the Stath – it’s a better-than-average action thriller, more in the vein of a Bourne flick rather than something a little sillier like the Transporter films.
Writer-director Boaz Yakin brings a gritty style, with liberal use of shaky cam in order to lend the various fisticuffs and shootouts a more in-your-face and hard-hitting feel. Unlike other directors however, Yakin ensures that the camera isn’t having a seizure and inducing the audience into a nauseated state. The film also carries all the positive hallmarks of having a writer-director rather than just having someone to come on board and get the job done. Safe is Yakin’s baby and his passion for the project helps set it apart from less stellar Statham outings such as last year’s The Mechanic.
I appreciated that the story took its time to establish the various players in the central plot, which has the Chinese Triads, Russian Mafia and corrupt New York City police all vying to get their hands on 12-year-old Chinese girl Mei (Catherine Chan). She has a photographic memory and is used by the Triads to keep track of their business dealings and, importantly, one particularly long number that everyone seems to be after.
After being chased onto a train by the Russian thug from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Mei is saved by Luke Wright (Jason Statham), a ‘garbage man’ turned homeless after falling afoul of the aforementioned Russians. Of course, there’s more to Luke than meets the eye and he soon ends up as Mei’s protector. The dynamic duo spend much of the film attempting to evade the various parties after them while getting to the bottom of that devilish number. It’s a plot that reminded me of Mercury Rising, in which another bald guy (Bruce Willis – to be fair, he had some hair) protects an autistic boy who’s cracked a secret code.
I enjoyed Safe but – please excuse the incredibly easy pun – it’s a safe bet. You can pretty much guess exactly what you’re going to get here; Statham knows his audience and he knows what they want and doesn’t fail to deliver. Yakin does a few things that separate this from past excursions into Stathland, but it’s still a relatively straightforward exercise that neither challenges any of the actors nor offers anything genuinely new and exciting in the populated world of action thrillers.
Safe is an above average Jason Statham action movie, a little more serious than other entries but an enjoyable time thanks to its competent direction, intense action and familiar but winning formula.