Release: Friday, April 27, 2012
Oops. I just got caught in the trap, too. Something about Jason Statham is still attractive (no, not like that) but when the film he’s starring in turns out to be yet another mediocre DVD box that helps to make his collection stack a lot taller than other action stars of his era, you start to get annoyed that you got duped into thinking he or his work might change.
The only reason his stack of DVDs that he stars in is so tall is because such films seem so incredibly easy to make! You know how they say sorority girls are a dime a dozen? Just apply the same line of thought to Jason Statham’s resumé. You’ve seen one and then you’ve basically seen them all. This one proved to be not the game-changer it had the potential of being, even if that potential was quickly fleeting the moment the film began. Films like Safe are churned out umpteen-to-the-dozen and it’s getting old, fast. Even the star, who’s been in such classic Guy Ritchie films such as Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, thinks so.
In this 2012 update of something akin to his role in Transporter — being the sole badass who risks it all for almost no reason, or not one that many of us will really remember for days and weeks after watching — Statham is Luke Wright, an ex-mixed martial arts fighter who has been kicked out of the ring permanently after deliberately winning the fight when he was told to take a dive. After this decision costs the Russian mafia millions, Statham finds his head has a target painted on it and he becomes the focal point for various beatings and other demoralizing little turns in his day-to-day existence. One of those little annoyances would be the Russians breaking into his home and killing his wife.
Following the fall-out, Wright basically mopes about New York looking for a way out of his pain but really doesn’t do much in the way of that. In fact he goes in the opposite direction until, taaa-daaa — a convenient new plot develops, and we have the skeleton of a film that Safe winds up becoming.
The main deal here is a young math prodigy, played by Catherine Chan, holds a set of numbers that she committed to memory (by force, not by will mind you) and is being held captive by a group of Chinese thugs who are trying to negotiate a deal with the Russian mob as to who will own the most muscle in this section of town — Chinatown. How appropriate. Although, you might have to double-check me on that, as the relations between the Chinese and Russian gangs were never really made entirely clear, like many “little details” of this popcorn kernel of a flick. If anything they just become fodder for Statham to mercilessly rip through for most of the film once everyone has caught on to the idea that indeed, Luke Wright is also involved in the little girl’s plight.
Anyway, yeah those are just some details.
We need to mostly care about what Wright’s role becomes when he finally crosses paths with this poor young girl. She has somehow eluded the clutches of her captors and is running through a subway station, hiding from more men with guns when Wright happens upon the scene. It just so happens this all goes down right at the lowest moment for him, as he’s literally inches from dropping his depressed self onto the subway tracks and ending it all. But once he catches a glimpse of this crazy scene — of a young girl, alone and terrified in a subway with four or five armed Russians onto her — something inside him snaps into focus and from here on out, more or less, it’s kiss-kiss, bang-bang.
At least there’s a surprising lack of that in this Statham film — the lovey-dovey stuff, that is. Apparently this director (Boaz Yakin) thinks that it’s plausible for one of his characters to not constantly need to be using women left and right in convenient stretches of peacetime during his ridiculous and often morally damning missions. No. This one pulls no sympathy cards or doesn’t even hint at Wright becoming a lovemaking, man-destroying, balding machine. I know that sounds rough, but come on. It’s the typecasting he’s living for. Or getting paid handsomely for. Pretty sure I’m not going to hurt him. Although the whole sticks-and-stones theory. . . .whatever. Statham is a badass, and is two-thirds of that machine description when he plays Luke Wright the ex-fighter who also knows how to shoot a gun amazingly efficiently.
He’s doing what he does best — geeze, how many times have I seen that line recycled across film reviews about this guy?? — and in this particular case he’s pretty intense. But, you’re going to have to let a lot of things slide in Safe. There was so much car chasing and exploding and fight sequences that I think some of the plot holes were physically covered up by a falling body or two. One such hole is glaringly obvious and may not be as easily concealed as Yakin may have hoped (since it does have a good deal to do with how the film will turn out, after all): how the hell did these two people avoid a constant barrage of bullets for an hour and a half? In all parts of a sleazy section of a rather chaotic Manhattan backdrop? They have the Chinese and Russian mobs — yes, that’s right, not one but TWO coldblooded killing elites — following hot on their heels and yet none of them….NONE…..could get the killing shot. The girl was a little more valuable, for sure. She is still wandering around town with this precious information in her head and if she’s shot that’s the end of that. I can understand maybe how the forcefield of life shot up around her — but with Wright, he is far more dispensable. He’s Bruce Willis in Unbreakable; he’s Agent Smith in The Matrix Trilogy; he’s an amalgam of every fighting badass who gets hit with everything and still lives to tell about it.
Color me shocked, the “good” guy wins at the end.
Recommendation: If you’re a die-hard Statham fan, see Safe. But just for safe measures, do not seek it out if you are anything less. . . which of course, begs the question as to why I saw it. Good question. One that I don’t have an answer for. Perhaps I thought it could have been something different. Negatory.
Running Time: 94 mins.
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