Safe, the new Jason Statham action vehicle, takes a more interesting approach then his usual fare. It takes at its core the story of a derelict man Luke Wright (Statham) who saves a young Chinese girl and math prodigy, Catherine (Catherine Chan) from the Triads, Russian mafia and the corrupt police officers who are in co-hoots with them. She has a set of numbers that they all want and Luke, who has a past with the police officers, guides her through the twists and turns of the story, shooting, punching and gaining life lessons along the way.
The film begins by attempting to present Statham in a different, darker and more complex light then some of his past characters. It opens with his character killing a man in a boxing ring and then coming home to find a bunch of Russian gangsters have killed his girlfriend, then warning him that anyone he gets close to for the rest of his life will meet a similar fate. Later, a man he exchanges a few words with is killed to prove their point. He begins life anew as a derelict until he crosses paths with the girl and they develop a relationship similar to the on in Leon: The Professional but without the awkward subtext (or text depending on which version you saw). They go on the lam with the mafia and the police after them and it’s at this point the interesting and complex Statham is traded back in for the suit wearing ass kicker with a heroic past from his other action vehicles (think The Transporter), and the film looses something in interest.
The action sequences, though smaller in scale then usual films of this type, are all extremely well directed. Writer/Director Boaz Yakin has a keen eye for the hard and fast violence popularised by the likes of Michael Mann. Gun fights and fight sequences are expertly handled and the car crash that allows the girl her freedom is particularly well shot mostly from inside the car. Smaller scenes are deftly shot and his dialogue is laced with humour and wit. His exploration of the various cultures that intersect in the film could be easily written off due to the perceived ridiculousness of the genre, but to his credit, he explores their worlds honestly and with a sense of reality. His use of New York city as a back drop is one of the best in action cinema with interesting non-tourist locales that we don’t normally get to see on the big screen.
Well made and substantially more interesting then some of its contemporaries, Safe is a stylish thriller that if nothing else, will keep you entertained for it’s fast paced ninety four minutes.