Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, Safe is yet another star vehicle that allows Jason Statham to beat up a lot of bad guys and it’s fine entertainment from start to finish. Having said that, the premise is full of such potential that it’s a shame to see the direction that the movie takes in the third act, after a blistering middle section, and I must say that as the end credits rolled I just wished that more and more action had been added to the mix.
Statham plays Luke Wright, an ex-cop who has taken to cage fighting to make some cash. He usually gets beaten or takes a dive but, for some reason, decides to properly fight back on one occasion and upsets quite a few people. The family of the man that he put in a coma are, of course, devastated but the Russian mobsters who lost a lot of money on the fight are so angry that they set out to destroy his entire life and ensure that anyone he cares for is dead. They won’t actually kill Luke, they assume that he’ll end up doing that himself before too long. And they’re right. Luke is contemplating ending it all when he see a young girl (Catherine Chan) being chased through a subway station. He decides to save her, not realising that she is being pursued by more of those pesky Russian mobsters, Triads and a number of corrupt police officers. Why do they all want this little girl so badly? Well, it turns out that she has a photographic memory and has been entrusted with a code that could lead to a lot of money. Everyone wants to keep her safe if they can get her to reveal the code but the next best move is to kill her and stop others from benefiting. Even the mayor (Chris Sarandon) and his assistant (Robert John Burke) want a piece of the pie.
Starting off with a few jumps between characters and between the present and the past, Safe quickly sets up the premise and the essence of the tragic hero. It’s not the smoothest start to a film that I’ve ever seen but it does the job and that’s perfectly acceptable, especially considering the number of different characters involved.
When things heat up in that fantastic middle section that I already mentioned it seems like everything could just keep getting better and better. Viewers know all that they need to know, they know all of the characters, it’s surely time to see how each action set-piece can top the preceding action set-piece. Sadly, that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Writer-director Yakin obviously wanted to do something with a bit of heart and though to it, which is admirable, but it’s just a shame that he teases action fans with such great fight scenes before winding everything down all too soon.
Statham has an accent in this one (never usually a good thing) so that’s something viewers may have to get past but his performance is as solid as expected in this type of fare. Catherine Chan does well as the little girl who becomes the focus of so much unwanted attention – she’s sweet but also already quite jaded. It’s always good to see James Hong in movies and he’s very good here, as is Reggie Lee. Sandor Tecsy and Joseph Sikora are suitably intimidating as the two main Russian mobsters (father and son) involved in the storyline and Robert John Burke is just fine as the main NYC cop trying to manipulate the situation to get a better percentage deal for him and his men.
If you like Jason Statham then you’ll like Safe. If you like action movies with a bit of heart then you’ll like Safe. It’s only 94 minutes long, it has a few great fight scenes and there are some good actors in the cast. It might not be as good as it could have been but it’s still a superior slice of ass-kicking entertainment.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: BOAZ YAKIN
STARS: JASON STATHAM, CATHERINE CHAN, ROBERT JOHN BURKE, JAMES HONG, ANSON MOUNT, CHRIS SARANDON, SANDOR TECSY, JOSEPH SIKORA, REGGIE LEE
RUNTIME: 94 MINS APPROX