Safe (2012)

Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount, Chris Sarandon, Reggie Lee, Sandor Tecsy, Joseph Sikora, Igor Jijikine.

Director: Boaz Yakin
Rating: R (for strong violence throughout, and for language.)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Home Video Release Date: September 4, 2012
North American Box Office: $17.1 Million

Lawrence Bender Productions, Trigger Street Productions, IM Global, 87Eleven, Automatik, and Lionsgate.

Written by: Boaz Yakin.
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1/2 (out of 5 stars)

All Jason Statham does is consistently deliver what seems to feel like 2-3 action movies per year.  Statham is largely the same character in all of them, his range not his best quality as an actor, but he has such a presence and intense charisma about him that his movies always seem to find their way to the big screen.  He must be gracious and kind and wonderful to work with because everytime I turn around, I feel like there is a Jason Statham action movie right around the corner.  Few, if any, have blown the doors off at the box office but for Statham, it seemingly does not matter.

Safe was a box office disappointment in the spring of 2012 and in watching the film, I can understand why.  Saddled with a burdensome amount of plot, Safe takes the assembly-line plot of a smart kid being kidnapped for nefarious reasons and throws far too much on top of it, making the film tiresome and barely worth the work to sort out.

Basically, there is a Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan).  She is 12 years old, wickedly smart in math, and finds herself abducted by Russian criminals in New York City.  The gang leader, Emile (Sandor Tecsy), wants to know what she knows about something we initially know nothing about.  We learn that a year prior to this abduction, she was grabbed and thrown into a car outside of her school in her home country and brought to the United States.

And then we have Statham playing a cage fighter named Luke.  Luke is a feeder fighter for other fighters to beat and increase their fight record and drawing power.  When Luke fails to take a dive and wins a fight he was supposed to lose, he angers a gang of Russian criminals, who naturally have their hands in the New York City cage fighting circuit.  The Russians kill Luke’s pregnant wife and to spare his life for costing the gang millions of dollars, they will let him live.  However, they will follow him and any person he becomes close with will be killed straightaway.  Luke, alone and destitute, has no option but to agree.

Soon, Luke stumbles onto the path of Mei and the various stories all connect, incorporating another plot involving a Chinese gang known as the Triads who have also co-opted Mei for her skills in running numbers.  Everything becomes so convoluted and ridiculously overthought, that I simply tried to shut my mind off and see where writer/director Boaz Yakin (Remember The Titans) wanted to take me.  I got lost, I think he did to, and at the end of the day nothing really seemed to matter.

Safe tries to foster a father/daughter, protector-and-the-protected story between Statham and Catherine Chan, but there is simply too much going on to find an honest way to connect to the young girl’s plight.  Chan seems like a natural on screen, but also often looks completely overmatched by what is happening around her.  She is likable and I would hope that we see her again, but this was a bit much for a feature film debut I think.  Jason Statham is again completely fine and comfortable in the role, a step behind the recognition and bankability that Bruce Willis seemed to experience in a post-Die Hard 1990s.  He is never bad in anything he appears in and if anything, his consistency is kind of refreshing.

Safe struggles to lock down on any of its potential impact and spins its wheels in clumsy perseverance.  You can do far worse when you are looking for a mindless action flick to take your mind away for 90-plus minutes, but despite Statham being compelling on screen, there is little else to remember from Boaz Yakin’s disappointing effort.

No worries though; with 4-5 more films in production featuring Statham set for release in 2013 and 2014, he will be playing at a movie theater near you in the winter…and the spring…and the summer….

SHOULD I SEE IT?
YES
  • Fans of Jason Statham’s films will likely have no issues with his film whatsoever.
  • Muddled and contrived, Safe does move quickly and its pacing does help with the pained screenplay and convoluted plotlines.
NO
  • There is nothing much that sets this apart from any other action film.  Statham knows these types of films inside and out and so despite his perfectly fine performance, the originality (Russian and Asian mobs, really?) is sorely lacking.
  • Cliched dialogue and paint-by-numbers action sequences grow wearisome.  Whatever works becomes quickly overshadowed by things which do not.  Safe becomes a big ball of wasted energy.