So I found that I could not sleep tonight, and that I was also behind on a few reviews. I just posted one for A Beginner’s Guide to Endings and clearly now am reviewing Safe. In the past if I watched several movies in a row, I would space out the reviews for them so that none got lost in the shuffle, tonight, who cares? Sometimes you just have to get back to basics, bite the bullet, do the deed, and move on with everything.
Safe concerns Luke Wright (Jason Statham) as a washed up cage fighter who used to be a garbage man…wait a minute, no it doesn’t. Wright was a former elite New York City cop brought in by the mayor to track down potential terrorist cells and take them out. His cover story was that of a New York City sanitation worker, after he was forced out of the force by some crooked cops on his own team, and the story which was also believed by the Russian mobsters who killed his wife, and have threatened to kill anyone who gets close to him, after he failed to take a dive in a fight they had fixed. Nearing the end of his rope, Luke is about to throw himself in front of a subway when he spots a Mei, a young Chinese girl being chased by some of the same Russian mobsters that have haunted his life. Making the decision to save her, Wright moves into action as only a Statham movie can. The girl is a genius with numbers and has all the accounts and transactions of the Chinese mafia in her head, as directed by her “Uncle Han” (James Hong who has been the voice star of countless animated features and video games, and is probably one of the more recognizable “non-stars” in the business). Han is “old school” mafia and doesn’t want the paper trail that could result from computers or accountants, so everything is stored in the computer like mine of an 11 year old girl. Now he has given her a series of numbers to memorize that we later learn is the coded combination to a safe that is to be traded with another party with a total take of $30 million. Seeing the girl in peril, Luke saves her life, and vows to protect her, because in a way, in his mind, she saved his life too.
Safe really did satisfy on all levels of an action movie. The acting was quite good, with the supporting cast being filled by an A-list of B-listers; actors who have been around for quite a while, and fill the supporting roles so well. Catherine Chan, as Mei, was very solid in her first feature role, a credit to her as it can be hard for a young actor’s performance to stand out amidst that of veteran players and when they are not usually involved directly in the action, which does take up the majority of the screen time. The car chases were pretty amazing, and again I tip my hat to Statham who evidently does most (if not all) of his own driving stunts. As with any Statham film you know he’s going to be doing some hand to hand fighting and there was lots of it in Safe, with possibly more broken arms than I had ever seen in one movie! When it came time for shoot outs, and there were plenty of them, the action was fast and kinetic, not letting up for a second. A group of thugs are sitting at a table? The table gets flipped up to pin them against a wall, and they’re shot through the table. You run out of bullets as you’re shooting up a club, you take the gun of your latest victim and carry on without a pause. Very well done, the scenes were shot and plotted in such a way that the action was coming from every side of the screen. We didn’t get a series of “good guy” shoots and waits for the “bad guys” to return fire before shooting again. Everyone was shooting at the same time, giving a shred of realism to some completely over the top and improbable scenes. The plot wasn’t super complicated, but I wasn’t looking for a work of Dickens or Agatha Christie here. That is not to say that the plot was thin or weak, but I wanted a fun movie and that’s what I got. Sure the hero gets revenge on everyone, the Russians who have been tormenting him, the Chinese who are now hunting him and the girl, his corrupt former partners from the NYPD, and even the dirty mayor played by Chris Sarandon, but that is what we enjoy about these action films.
The entertainment and enjoyment levels were off the chart and I think that Statham truly has become the biggest action star of the current day. There are some times when you just want, or need, a movie full of shoot outs and car chases and action to help you blow off the steam that has built up from the world around you. Sometimes you just want to see the bad guys get their asses kicked. I used to love Godzilla movies when I found myself needing that release, but sometimes a giant rubber lizard suit just isn’t therapeutic enough. I enjoyed Safe so much that I may rent it again this weekend to further vent my frustrations from the world, and I highly recommend anyone else out there reading to watch it too.