Is it just me, or are these Jason Statham action films becoming harder and harder to tell apart? They say to go with what you know, but blast it all, I need to know if this man is capable of something other than fight choreography and witty one-liners. Safe is yet another film that exploits his physicality and completely ignores his potential for actual acting. On the basis of just about every movie he has ever been in, filmmakers don’t regard him as an artist but merely as a tool – the go-to guy for mindless stunts and relentless action violence. Is this because real acting isn’t his forte? If that’s the case, fine, but please have the decency to let me know this. Cast him in a role he’s unqualified for and let me watch him fail. At least then I can finally stop questioning the extent of his range.
Unfortunately, Statham’s typecasting is only part of what makes this movie so bad. Safe weaves a needlessly convoluted tale of crime and corruption, which is to say that audiences seeking the kind of cheap thrills Statham is known for are unlikely to make heads or tails of who’s doing what to whom and why. When we’re not trying to muddle our way through the plot, we must endure scene after scene of gun-pointing and shooting and brutal hand-to-hand combat, most of which are over so quickly and edited with such rapid-fire pacing that it’s virtually impossible to distinguish one move from another. At which point did cinematic action fall victim to such mobility extremes? If it isn’t in agonizing slow motion, then it’s cut together like a frenetic music video. Middle ground seems to have disappeared somewhere along the way.
The plot, as it were, involves a former NYPD cop named Luke Wright (Statham), who was at one time involved in a task force specializing in the assassination of terrorists. Ashamed of his actions, he took to being a cage fighter in New Jersey. During one of the matches, he didn’t take the dive he was supposed to take and ended up putting his opponent in a coma. He also got himself in hot water with Russian mobsters, who punished him by murdering his wife. Rather than kill him as well, they decree that he must live the rest of his days as an outcast of society; anyone he comes into contact with will immediately be killed. He spends the next year living as a vagrant in New York City, acting coldly to anyone that speaks to him. In a moment of weakness, he gave a homeless man his shoes. Any guesses as to what happened next?
As this is being established, and I should point out that the opening scenes are played out of sequence, we meet a twelve-year-old Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan), whose savant-like math skills catch the attention of a ruthless mobster named Han Jiao (James Hong). He has his henchmen kidnap her and, under threat of murdering her gravely ill mother (conveniently unseen), transport her to New York, where she will keep track of all the illegal rackets going on in Chinatown. She’s eventually given an unbelievably long number written on a piece of paper and instructed to memorize it. She does so instantaneously. She was to have been given a second number, but Russian mobsters intervened – which is to say, they crashed their vehicles into those of the Chinese henchmen, shot most of them, and kidnapped Mei. It isn’t long before she escapes and crosses paths with Luke, who was about ready to commit suicide by jumping onto subway rails.
The confusion over the connection between the Russians and the Chinese is maddening. It only gets worse when it’s revealed that both are tied to a group of corrupt cops, all of whom have a serious grudge against Luke. They waste no time in showing it; he’s arrested and driven to a quiet area of the city, at which point they all take their turns beating the living hell out of him. But let’s get back to Luke and Mei crossing paths. For reasons not made apparent to the audience, Luke’s paternal instincts kick in, and he vows to keep her safe. Mei, who speaks fluent English without a trace of an accent, tells him about the numbers she had to memorize. He deduces that hidden within the numbers is a code. It’s around this time that yet another subplot is added to the mix, this one involving the Mayor (Chris Sarandon). There’s also more fighting and a lot of Luke taking control through lies and manipulation.
Putting aside the plot altogether, there’s absolutely nothing about the relationship between Luke and Mei that comes off as genuine. One essentially acts as a deus ex machina for the other, their situations contrived solely for the purpose of having the two paired together. It doesn’t help that Statham and Chan have no chemistry; never once do their characters exhibit anything resembling a pseudo father-daughter bond, or even basic friendship. Is this the sign that I was looking for, the one that would let me know that Statham is indeed a bad actor and only good for brutal stunt work? Or is it merely a matter of bad writing and directing? I honestly don’t know. I can’t even tell if Safe was intended to be taken seriously, given the awkward mix of cringe-inducing violence and flippant dialogue. This movie is a gigantic mess.
Honestly, I have been a little sad that despite his acting talent, Jason Statham seems to have been reduced by Hollywood to a typecast that puts him in one mediocre action flick after the next. I know the man has talent judging from his movies in Europe but it seems as if Hollywood is so desperate for an action hero that this is all the work he gets offered here in the U.S.. Going to see “Safe” I was prepared for more of the same, and really, I was not expecting much. I was dragged to … more
Despite what some may think, smart action films are not an easy sell. They require a script with some backbone, and that means a strong villain, some solid supporting players, a dashing but tarnished hero, and plenty of excellent stunt work. The stakes should be easily identifiable by the audience, and all of the players need to be uniquely fit into their respective roles. In other words, a bad guy without a clear and understandable goal can muck it all up in a real hurry, and … more
By Joan Alperin Schwartz First off, I must say that there are some actors that I just enjoy watching...Doesn't really matter all that much what they do up on the silver screen...I just like them...And Jason Statham is one of them. Is he a great actor? That's yet to be determined, but he's definitely an entertaining one. … more
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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A second-rate cage fighter on the mixed martial arts circuit, Luke Wright lives a numbing life of routine beatings and chump change...until the day he blows a rigged fight. Wanting to make an example of him, the Russian Mafia murders his family and banishes him from his life forever, leaving Luke to wander the streets of New York destitute, haunted by guilt, and tormented by the knowledge that he will always be watched, and anyone he develops a relationship with will also be killed. But when he witnesses a frightened 12-year-old Chinese girl, Mei, being pursued by the same gangsters who killed his wife, Luke impulsively jumps to action...and straight into the heart of a deadly high-stakes war. Mei, he discovers, is no ordinary girl, but an orphaned math prodigy forced to work for the Triads as a "counter." He discovers she holds in her memory a priceless numerical code that the Triads, the Russian mob and a corrupt faction of the NYPD will kill for.