Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount and Chris Sarandon.
Written and Directed by Boaz Yakin.
Jason Statham has been carving out a decent resume of action films for years now. His chiseled looks, thick English accent and hand-to-hand combat skills have made him a star. Safe is a film that feels like it’s ripped straight from the late 80’s/early 90’s with Statham jumping into the role that would have easily gone the likes of Steven Segal back then. But the question is can a film with the qualities of those late 80’s action set pieces work in 2012?
Safe begins outlining the fate of Mei (Chan), a 12 year-old girl with an amazing ability to read, interpret and memorize numbers effortlessly. The Chinese Triad operation hears about this girl and uses her to start organizing drops and keep mental booking of their illegal US operations, while holding her mother hostage back in China to guarantee compliance. Mei is given a series of numbers to memorize, then is to be driven to a second location for a second set of numbers, but the plan goes awry. En route to the second numbers the Triad’s caravan is attacked by the Russian Mob, who promptly take Mei and attempt to force her to tell them the first set of numbers. This then brings in the involvement of Captain Wolf (Burke), a corrupt NYC police Captain more worried about increasing his percentage of the take from both sides than dispensing any justice. During the commotion of a police standoff, Mei manages to escape to the subway where she crosses paths with Luke Wright (Statham). Luke is a former cage fighter who was supposed to take a dive but instead manages to put his opponent into a coma with one strike. A lot of people lose money on the fight, including the same Russian mob who pay Luke’s wife a very deadly visit. Luke is told to disappear or he will suffer the same fate, which he does. He has returned to NYC in an effort to put stuff together when he is recognized by one of NYC’s finest. We then are informed that Luke is actually a former NYC policeman who became whistle blower against the same Captain Wolf and his crew. After a generous beat down, Luke ends up in the Subway where he sees Mei and recognizes her attackers, and the insanity begins. Eventually even the higher ups, the Mayor (Sarandon) and his top aide (Mount), become embroiled in the wake of the increasing body count.
Director Yakin smartly embraces all the contentions of the 80’s action genre and manages to craft a fun and entertaining ride. Statham knows how to deliver in these situations and newcomer Chan does very well as the precocious Mei. Yakin also has been very savvy in scattering many familiar faces from late 80’s/early 90’s action films throughout the supporting cast. James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China and many more), Robert John Burke (Robocop 3) and Chris Sarandon (the original Fright Night and Child’s Play) all lend a retro feel while providing solid backing work throughout the film.
Overall Safe is a fun night out at the movies that is not meant for heavy criticism. This throwback is the perfect prep film for the popcorn fare starting next week with The Avengers. And it’s a lot better than any of these trailers/commercials are allowing it to look.
Til Next Time
Movie Junkie TO