Theatrical Release: April 27, 2012
DVD Release: September 4, 2012
Director: Boaz Yakin
Review by James Klein
I must admit, I had been putting off reviewing this movie for awhile. I am just not a fan of Jason Statham nor the modern action film genre in general. I hate the quick cutting, the shaky cameras, the computer effects, the fact that everyone knows martial arts. I’ll take a Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson movie over any of these new films. So needless to say, my expectations were low going into Safe which has me believe that this is the reason why I found Safe to be a somewhat enjoyable action film.
The frantic and at times confusing plot revolves around a Chinese math prodigy who happens to be a young girl without a family. The Chinese mafia want her as do the Russian mafia for their own greedy personal reasons. You see, there is this supposed impossible to crack safe holding a lot of money that only this girl can open. Even the NYC police department is in on the take as they too are after this little girl. She is like a walking computer.
Statham plays Luke, a former NYC police detective who has become a loner recluse once his wife was killed by the Russian mafia. About to commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway, Luke sees the child being chased by Russian gangsters and decides to do one last good deed before he ends his life. Once he dispatches of the gangsters (in a very well choreographed fist fight on the subway) he decides to protect the child and rush her to safety as the Russians, Chinese and police are after them.
I much preferred the first half of Safe to the second half. I loved the fact that Statham is playing this suicidal loner. His emotional range has never truly been shown and shockingly he does offer the viewer more than a few scowls during a few dramatic scenes. I also enjoyed the back story with the little girl and the Chinese mafia but the film starts to drift into predictable circumstances once we find out that Luke was a former police officer who knows martial arts and every car chase and shoot out starts to get shakier and shakier. As the film got closer to its conclusion, I was quickly losing interest as the characters continued to double cross one another and it became unclear as to what was going on.
There are some well done action scenes, mostly in the first half with a shootout taking place inside a cab where the camera refuses to move and we see the action through car windows and rearview mirrors. I had never seen this done before and that was really exciting to see. There are also some decent performances by some great character actors like James Hong, Chris Sarandon and Robert John Burke (although the math prodigy child is at times pretty bad) that help move the convoluted storyline along.
The DVD (I didn’t receive the blu ray to review) does have some really good special features on the making of the film and director Boaz Takin really seems to know his action. What strikes me as odd is that he rarely has worked as a director of action films (he has done Uptown Girls and Remember the Titans, two films that I have zero interest in ever seeing). Yankin even supplies the movie with an informative audio commentary that is worth a listen.
While Safe does have its problems (mostly in the second half) I must say I expected another Transporter type of film or something along the lines of Mercury Rising or Rush Hour, with the hero cop looking after a child. Safe thankfully exceeded my expectations and gave me a somewhat decent action film to pass the time.