12-year-old Mei (Catherine Chan) is a maths genius with a photographic memory. A human computer, she’s kidnapped from her school in mainland China by old-school crime boss Han (James Hong)who, this being a Jason Statham movie, doesn’t trust computers and ships her off to the Big Apple to keep the books for the local Triads. There she’s made to memorise a numeric code which will allow access to a vault full of cash. But the Russian mob and some dodgy cops are after the code and, during a violent shootout, Mei escapes.
Pursued into the subway by the Russkies, she encounters suicidal, homeless ex-cage fighter Luke Wright (Jason Statham) who’s just about to throw himself in front of a train but takes time out to save Mei from the Russian gangsters who, coincidentally killed his pregnant wife and ruined his life. One breathless, brutal hand-to-hand battle on a packed subway train later, Luke’s found a new purpose in life; keeping Mei safe. And he’ll kick a lot of bad guy ass to do it. Luckily, the whole city seems to be out to get them, providing Luke with plenty of opportunity…
With the possible exception of lesbian clown porn, is there a guiltier pleasure than a Jason Statham movie? You know you’re going to get exactly what you want; well-choreographed ultra-violence. With its blisteringly good fight scenes, an adrenalised, high-octane car chase or two and some tense shootouts, Safe is no exception and, with a tough guy quip and a manly twinkle, Statham delivers the goods, his biggest enemy not the battalion of bad guys (Triads, Russian Mob, dirty cops, corrupt politicians, etc.) he faces but logic and subtlety. Fear not however, Statham dispatches them too, cheerfully knocking seven shades out of them.
Safe is gleefully, nastily, over the top fun, with a disregard for the safety of innocent bystanders that’s frankly jaw-dropping. Recycling the plot of 1998’s Mercury Rising, writer/director Boaz Yakin’s script doesn’t even appear to be on nodding acquaintance with anything approaching sense. But it doesn’t have to be. You’re not watching Safe for the intricate, Swiss-watch precision of its script, the delicate character shading, the nuanced performances…you’re watching Safe because you want to see Statham kick people in the face. Which he does. A lot.
Statham may just be the perfect action star. Charismatic and funny, he swaggers through the film immune to bullets, knives and fists, pausing every so often to deliver a terse, hard-bitten one-liner or a hilariously over-the-top threat, telling one gangster: “I’m going to do things to your son that’ll make me ashamed to look in the mirror.” His relationship with the young Chan is sweet and it’s good for once to see an imperilled child who isn’t sickeningly cute or totally helpless. Chan’s Mei is one tough little fortune cookie in her own right and you get the impression that even if Luke hadn’t blundered along, she’d have managed to save herself just fine. They’re ably supported by scenery-chewing turns from Robert John Burke as a corrupt cop and Chris Sarandon as a venal Guiliani-esque Mayor.
Saturday night viewing of the highest order, Safe is a fast, furious action flick that gives you plenty of bang for your buck and if it’s a fun night’s viewing you’re looking for it really is up there with lesbian clown porn. Except, you know, you can watch it in a cinema full of people.
Written and Directed by:
Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, James Hong, Anson Mount, Robert John Burke, Sandor Tecsy, Reggie Lee
1 hour 34 minutes
UK Cinema Release Date:
Friday 4th May 2012