Pros: all action, all the time
Cons: no clumsy logical story line to distract us from the fights
One thing that can be said about Safe is that it doesn’t slow down enough at any point to let the viewer begin to see the gaping holes in the plot. Writer/ director Boaz Yakin keeps upping the ante by introducing plot points in such an oblique way that we spend all our time trying to piece together the history behind the character’s criminal activity, while being dazzled by action sequences that become increasingly more outrageous and physically impossible.
Ex New York Cop Luke Wright (Jason Statham) does what he can as a cage fighter and garbage man, but deep down he feels a certain sense of failure that he could not be the cop he aspired to, and moreover on this day he has put an inexperienced fighter in a coma with a bad punch. When the Russian mafia puts him out on the street, and Asian mafia take advantage of young math prodigy Mei (Catherine Chan) to crake a well-stocked safe, Luke’s honor takes over. He partners with corrupt Police Captain Wolf (Robert John Burke) to knock off the competing mafia gang and take millions for themselves.
It’s also a movie that hires a cadre of character actors to flesh out all the nasty things that 30 million dollars of hard cash and a reportedly hyper-sensitive CD with names that can destroy a universe of seemingly good guys all of whom are working in criminal activities. Some of the characters are unbelievable, but as with the plot director Boaz Yakin makes sure that none of them remain on-screen longer than is necessary to kick off another plot point.
Jason Statham is a stand-out. His particular kind of celebrity action hero is a combination of soulful British street culture and real Asian-style kick boxing that makes him one of the hottest properties in film today. What Statham has is a simplicity that allows him to play characters that we believe. Paired in scenes with the newbie, little Catherine Chan who has only done three movies. She plays that special kind of character with super-human skills, and here again we are only given enough to get the plot going and the action moving. The dynamic between the two actors brings heart to the film that shows Statham in perhaps a better light than Chan.
In Safe we don’t really get why he has decided to make the rash decision he does in the DeKalb street subway station. We see how the Russian gangsters test him but without seeing the violence it’s difficult to completely understand it. Without the real character background it’s hard to accept the film as anything more than an action toss-off, but in that respect, the film delivers on all points.
There’s also nothing here of the great meaningful action stories of the late 60s and early 70s that were always about socio-political things, and couched in the action plots of tough-guy personas. Movies like Point Blank, and The Killer Elite, and Bullitt were movies that meant something beyond what their stories were. In Safe it seems it all comes down to overstated sentiment. Even our hero tells the little girl he’s saved that they’ll have to take things “one day at a time.” (CLUNK), and even Jason Statham almost blows the line.
It’s still a nice 90-minute diversion, especially if you like Jason Statham.