[Review] – Safe

9 May

Title: Safe
Year: 2012
Director: Boaz Yakin
Writer: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence throughout, and for language
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Metacritic: 55

You gotta hand it to Jason Statham for making out a nice career for himself for just kicking some serious ass even though he’s already a few years into his forties. Ever since breaking out thanks to Guy Ritchie‘s twosome of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and then Snatch he’s been the go-to ass-kicker with some truly powerful screen presence, becoming the lead in a couple of action franchises thanks to The Transporter and the Crank movies, and being chosen as part of the older tough guys crew in The Expendables and the upcoming sequel to that one. So yeah, by now you should know a Jason Statham the second you see one and already probably be able to tell whether you like those movies or not. And, well, for what it’s worth, his latest, Safe, is very much a Jason Statham movie.

I mean that not necessarily as a criticism, nor do I as a compliment, I just mean that Jason Statham’s movies have a specific sort of crowd by now. While I’m not necessarily part of that crowd, I’m also not against them whatsoever and some them I’ve seriously enjoyed (The Bank Job, especially) so I went into Safe totally open to coming out digging it. And while I appreciated how no-holds-barred it was in its approach to the violence it showed, and some of the stuff it did with all that violence which was rather original, there was just absolutely nothing that differentiated it from the dozen other Jason Statham movies we’ve gotten below. And since I’m not necessarily a huge fan of those, I’m not a huge of this one either.

If you are a big fan of Mr. Statham, however, my guess is that Safe will be pretty good for you. The thing is, I know this guy is good at doing this, but (and please pardon the pun here) Safe is just him playing it safe, doing stuff his last seven films have already been repetitive in showing us he can do it in his sleep. And I think it would be great to see the guy going a bit out of his comfort zone next, start planning for when he can no longer kill so many guys and do so many crazy stunts.

Anyways, for now, Safe is what we have. And in it Mr. Statham plays Luke Wright, a cage fighter who lives off the measly money that comes his way from taking beatings throwing his fights, until he one day decides not to obey the people who pay him to rig his fights, and his life goes down the drain. The Russian mob that fixes the fights then goes on to kill off his family because that’s how these things go and then Luke is left alone, without family or possessions, in the New York streets, being watched by the people that made an example out of him, having nothing left to live for.

The second I learned that this was an MMA fighter I was psyched because that meant a lot of physical action would ensue, and I started thinking about Steven Soderbergh‘s great Haywire from earlier this year (to which I gave an A- to) that featured Gina Carano, a real MMA star, doing some serious ass-kicing. Luke Wright, however, never once uses his MMA prowess, and instead all the action that happens, as frequent and extreme as it may be, is mostly done with guns (as the poster makes very clear) and not with kicks and punches, which I really wanted to see. Especially because Mr. Statham is known for being able to do his own stunts while looking all tough all the time so it would’ve made for some nice sequences without the use of stunt doubles.

What prompts Luke to start kick some ass again after the mob had killed off his family is that he witnesses this really young Chinese girl being pursued by the same tough guys that essentially ended his life. What do Russian tough guys have to do with a little Chinese girl, you ask? Well it just so happens that she, Mei she’s named, is a math prodigy who they use as a “counter” and that holds in her memory a numerical code that pretty all the bad guys one can imagine popping up in a film like this, including a corrupt part of the NYPD, are after. Yes, a Chinese girl is a math genius; original, right? Anyways, Luke then becomes Mei’s protector, trying to avenge his family and make something out his life at the same time.

All of this, by the way, is a-okay with me. This is the kind of stuff Mr. Statham can handily pull off into a decent enough action flick. But then you start analyzing the characters on display, especially the tough-guy villainous roles, and you can’t help but laugh a bit at how stereotypical they are. And once you hear the dialogue these guys have to spit out, well then you’ll be truly howling at the hilarity of it all. Still, this stuff is what we sometimes have to deal with in Jason Statham movies and he can still come out on top because all the action is awesome and it’s escapist entertainment at its best. But then this one gets to the action stuff, and even that’s just horribly lacking in quality.

Not only do we get pretty much no real opportunities to see the MMA past of our main character in display, but every action sequence we get is just absolutely busy visually and you can’t really connect the dots, making it one big mess to look at. I guess it hurt this one that, like I said, the MMA stuff had gotten Haywire in my mind. In that film Mr. Soderbergh shot the action sequences beautifully, even getting rid off the sound effects and just letting the fights breathe on their own without jittery camerawork and with actors who really knew what they were doing. When you have that on your mind and you compare it to this one, well, it’s a contest.

I just never once bought into what Safe was giving us. The plot is just overstuffed to the point of suffocation; the action sequences are really badly edited and boring; the dialogue is impressively bad; and I just can’t buy Jason Statham as guy who had spent a year just doing nothing and being sad, I think he would’ve gone out and gotten revenge way before the Chinese girl came around. I don’t, this just didn’t do it for me. But, again, it might do it for the big Jason Statham fans out there. He has yet another action film to headline early next year, which will be directed by Taylor Hackford, and is once again part of the macho ensemble for The Expendables 2 this August. So yes, plenty of chances for those big fans of his to see him kicking ass in better movies. Me? I just want him to reunite with Guy Ritchie already.

Grade: C

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