Director: Boaz Yakin
Toward the end of last year, this guy anointed action-star Jason Statham with his own brand of movies; similar to Jackie Chan and/or Adam Sandler. Safe, is yet another patented “Jason Statham flick.”
Within the 94 minutes, there’s a working, and semi-intriguing, story being woven that is doused with high-impact action sequences encompassing shootouts, car chases, and graphic hybrid fisticuff battles (a blend of slugfests meets martial arts styles). All of this takes place on the streets of New York City, where the seemingly broken Statham interjects himself in a high-stakes battle between the Russian mafia and the Chinese criminal underworld, with the added angle of dirty cops playing both sides.
The reason Statham decides to play vigilante-hero so to speak, is he notices a young Chinese girl (Catherine Chan) – who carries a lucrative secret in her genius mind – running away in the subway from Russian henchmen. He’s crossed paths with this syndicate before and believes by helping the girl; he can atone for his mysterious past; which slowly gets revealed as the flick progresses.
Even though this is going through the motions, of yes, other past Statham properties (Transporter franchise comes to mind), the way it is captured through the lens adds a unique wrinkle to the storytelling. During one of the car getaways, the hand-held camera aesthetic is used from the backseat while Statham is driving and his young co-star is riding shotgun. As they exchange dialogue, the shaky camera pans back-n-forth and then sharply zooms into the rear-view mirror to showcase the action behind them as they are making an escape. Snippets of that style are laced in with the traditional action cinematography. If anything it just freshens up the stereotypical product a bit. That said, the hand-held camera during action scenes is still the most overrated style since Paul Greengrass decided to execute that approach in the Bourne series (Damn him).
The chess match Statham plays, when he’s not kicking ass like a superhero, with some worthy antagonist (Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, and Joseph Sikora) takes this flick out of the mindless action-movie category, for it does have a thought. Original thought? Not so much. But a thought none-the-less. Let’s just say there’s a nice balance between the action that occurs in a bunch of locations (subways, casino, hotels, etc.), and the dialogue that gets right to the point.
Overall, Safe isn’t going to summon any award nods or anything of that nature; but for the action-junkies that enjoy a decently thought out adrenaline piece, that is technically sufficient for the genre, have no worries stepping into this.