I’m starting to think I ought to write a template for Jason Statham films and when a new one comes along, simply fill in the blanks. That might seem to imply criticism, but it’s not meant to, as the Stath is one of the few actors around who’s been able to consistently produce films that have been entertaining and action-packed. Few of them may rise above being decent fun, but you know what you’re getting and he consistently delivers movies you know won’t be a waste of a rental.
Statham has been teamed up with various people in his movies, but a small Chinese girl is definitely a different kind of on-screen partner. She (Catherine Chan) has an amazing ability to remember numbers and locked away in her noggin is a code that turns out to be much in demand when she’s targeted by both the triads and Russian Mafia. Statham meanwhile is a former fighter who’s been forced into a life on the edge of society after he failed to throw a bout.
With the little girl on the run and being thrown from pillar to post by the various factions trying to extract the numbers from her, her destiny gets unexpectedly linked with Statham’s when they realise they can both help each other out, and perhaps they can get the gangsters and crooked cops who plague them off their backs. They must work out exactly what the code is for and survive the attempts of some violent people to get them.
The plot is incredibly busy and never stays in the same place for more than two minutes, but mainly it’s there to provide an effective spine and emotional hook to the action. As you’d hope with the Stath, it’s here that the movie excels. However it’s not just Jason’s impressive physicality that helps sell the movie but Boaz Yakin’s direction. Yakin is a screenwriter who may have directed movies before (Remember The Titans, Uptown Girls), but he steps things up a gear with Safe
His handling of the action is impressive, making a conscious decision to eschew the kind of quick-cut style that cheats you into thinking more is happening than really is (and often confuses the audience at the same time). In fact it’s deliberately the opposite, with Yakin contriving ways, such as using mirrors, not to have to cut at all. It’s surprisingly effective, creating scenes that are actually more kinetic and exciting than if there’d been a cut even few milliseconds.
From car chases to gun play, the film delivers on the action and is often relatively clever with how things play out. Well, not that clever, as if this amount of violence was really going on in downtown Manhattan, the city would have gone into lockdown and police would flood the streets, but that would rather shut down the plot, so we’ll ignore that.
In the special features Yakin describes Safe as paying homage to the action films of the 70s and 80s, and you can certainly see what he means. While his allusions to the likes of The French Connection may be stretching things too far, it certainly fits into the 80s style of New York set slices of entertainment that are completely and joyously unashamed of their OTT action and needless violence (although this isn’t as claret-soaked as many movies were back then), and just want to keep you hooked through to the credits.
Yakin’s comments are part of decent selection of features, which include a commentary with the director along with some featurettes that briefly explore the story and action. There’s not a vast amount of stuff but it’s worth looking through.
Overall Verdict: Jason Statham deliver again with a fast paced, entertaining ride that’s helped a lot by some smart and exciting action direction.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac