May 16 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
SAFE is an action thriller starring Jason Statham as former elite agent Luke Wright.
Luke is forced to come to the aid of young girl Mei (Catherine Chan), whose memory holds a numerical code targeted by Triads, the Russian mob, and crooked cops.
There’s a few things in the movie world that have passed me by; and one is the work of Jason Statham.
Sure, I’ve seen him in small roles here and there (The Italian Job, Collateral), but when his name is above the title (Crank, The Transporter, War), I have given it a miss.
His brand of bone-crunching, high octane a**-kicking has won him many fans (and box office receipts) but I wont be in a hurry for second helpings.
Not that Safe isn’t without its moments. If quick-paced action with a simple story is your thing then right from the rapid-fire opening flashbacks, there’s plenty of bangs for your bucks.
Writer/director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) creates a familiar tale of characters trying to make their way across a city pursued by evildoers (Die Hard 4.0, 16 Blocks) but falls down with the relationship, or lack thereof, between his two leads.
Statham and Chan, making her big screen bow, don’t share many scenes together and though they get a nice, but gruesome, little coda in the final action scene, you’re not left rooting for them to be reunited.
Maybe it’s because Yakin decides to relegate Mei to the sidelines for much of the finale, focussing instead on Luke reuniting with his old police colleagues for a serious set-to.
Gunfire is the order of the day but Statham also deserves credit for propelling his body around like a man possessed.
Luke starts out by being forced ‘off the grid’, sleeping in a shelter that’s more like a prison, before Mei gives him purpose and Yakin cleverly makes us wait 35 minutes for Luke to finally snap after he’s been beaten and insulted from pillar to post.
And boy does he snap. He goes from a more intelligent version of gentle giant Lennie in Of Mice and Men to a sharply dressed version of The Terminator.
The ratcheting up of action also sees a dumbing down in dialogue (“I never collected garbage, I disposed of it”, “I’ve been in restaurants all night and all I got served was lead”).
Yakin brings occasional style behind the camera with some clever use of rearview and side car mirrors framing action, and a dining room smackdown is a ferocious riot.
The New York setting adds to the frenetic danger but you’ll have a hard time believing so many people in the one city could be so corrupt.
And a late adversary for Luke, Anson Mount’s Alex, appears with no build-up... well, one line of build-up.
An unnecessary smattering of racism (“they all look alike to me”, “Bolshevik scumbags”) more in keeping with eighties/nineties actioners leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Safe won’t win Statham any new fans but its OTT style over substance is rarely dull.
And the London-born star deserves credit for finding his niche and cracking the States.
Just don’t go expecting Shakespeare and you’ll be OK... just about.
Rating – 5 out of 10.