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'Safe' Starring Jason Statham

A movie directed by Boaz Yakin

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SAFE Is Everything You Expect from a Jason Statham Picture, But It Could've Been More

  • Nov 26, 2012
  • by
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 that gets to the core of what could’ve used more attention in SAFE, a serviceable cop thriller featuring the ever-reliable Jason Statham, the next true action star.
(Note: the following review may contain minor spoilers solely for the discussion of character and plot.  If you prefer your reviews spoiler-free, then skip down to the last two paragraphs.  Otherwise, you’ve been warned.)
Luke Wright (played by Statham) is a former NYC detective.  Disgraced by a sting gone bad and forced to live his life day-to-day, Wright stumbles across across Mei, a young Chinese math prodigy on the run from the Russian mob.  Realizing she’s in danger, he does what he does best and rescues her, only to find out that now he’s crossed paths with some dirty cops and a deadly Chinese Triad who’ll stop at nothing to either have what the young girl knows or see her and those defending her dead.
SAFE is far from the perfect vehicle for Statham, but it’s real close.  The down-on-his-luck-but-itching-for-a-comeback wannabe fits perfectly with his charisma and skill as an acting professional.  Plus, he knows more than a thing or two about handling himself in close hand-to-hand combat or at a distance with guns blazing.  Whether he knows it or not, his is an effortless grace; the machismo he brings to his slate of pictures fuels his fan base, so it isn’t genius casting him in the role of disgraced New York detective – it’s just good business sense.
What isn’t so safe about SAFE is the story, which I found to be more than a bit muddled.  The opening ten minutes (or so) of the picture is told via a small handful of flashbacks and flash-forwards to present day, and they involve Wright and Mei (Catherine Chan).  These weren’t necessarily confusing, but they contained important time details that required close attention.  (For my tastes, Mei’s flashbacks scenes weren’t necessary and could’ve been handled in dialogue.)  What does get confusing is that, as the story unfolds, the audience is delivered even more historical information about Wright, and this is given in dialogue.  The crux of this is that we find out a vast additional array of info surrounding Wright’s role in the city; to complicate it more, supplementary character relationships are even defined further … and, yes, the end result is that I found it all hard to follow.  These things are best when established visually not with passing dialogue; it’s a small point, but one definitely worth mentioning.
Also, there’s been an increasingly alarming trend with directors involving fight sequences.  I’d first noted this with Christopher Nolan’s work in BATMAN BEGINS, where I (and others) found some of the fisticuffs photographed so closely that it was hard to discern exactly what was happening.  There was no definitive answer of who was hitting whom.  Granted, we’re led to believe that the hero is trouncing the bad guys, but we’re never shown a clear angle until after the fight is over.  Then, we see that the baddies are lying on the ground unconscious.  Where this whole idea originated I can’t say for sure, but I’d love to see it leave films entirely.  Sadly, a few fight sequences of SAFE fall into this narrative trap.  Is writer/director Boaz Yakin hoping to garner acclaim from other directors who’ve done likewise, or does he just not care to show audiences what exactly happened in that last fight?  I’ve no way to know, and that’s never a good thing.
I don’t want all of this to sound as if I disliked SAFE.  Much of it was entertaining, if not downright exhilarating.  It looked and sounded like a great meal … but, come the end, there were enough little nitpicks I would’ve changed to make it a meal I couldn’t live without, which is something I think rising star Statham genuinely and legitimately deserves at this point in his career.  This one was good – very solid – but it could’ve used a bit more spit polish to be memorable.
SAFE is produced by Lionsgate and IM Global in association with Automatik and Trigger Street Productions.  DVD distribution is being handled by Lionsgate.  Technically, the disc looks and sounds pretty terrific, though I thought Statham on a few occasions could’ve been miked better (difficult to understand).  The disc is rounded out with a few special features on crime and the art of the gunplay as well as a commentary track from Yakin himself.
RECOMMENDED definitely for fans of Jason Statham because I don’t believe he’s yet let his true fans down.  SAFE was more than a bit confusing in the story department – there’s a police cover-up, a massive back-story for Statham’s Luke Wright reduced to a couple of throwaway lines, and some Chinese/Russian gang wars – and I can’t help but wonder if writer/director Yakin was too enamored with his own script or too inexperienced a director to handle all of the nuances required here.  Thankfully, what matters most is a fallen hero with a heart of gold – this is the kind of stuff Bruce Willis has been banking for years – and the film works effectively on that level.  It even wraps up with the possibility of a sequel, and I’d be interesting in seeing where these characters could go from here.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lionsgate provided me with a DVD screener copy of SAFE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
SAFE Is Everything You Expect from a Jason Statham Picture, But It Could've Been More

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November 27, 2012
This...I am not sure, but I do remember enjoying it in theaters. Flawed, but still a good time at the movies.
More Safe (2012 film) reviews
review by . April 30, 2012
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Predictable and Outlandish...But an Enjoyable and Energetic Action Thriller
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 …
review by . May 02, 2012
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Star Rating:         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 …
review by . April 27, 2012
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            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.   …
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Ed ()
Ranked #12
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops".   … more
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About this movie


  • Opened April 27, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr 35 min
  • R-Language and Strong Violence Throughout

    Poster art for "Safe."
  • 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.
  • Cast: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount, Chris Sarandon
  • Director: Boaz Yakin
  • Genres: Crime Thriller, Crime
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    Director: Boaz Yakin
    Screen Writer: Boaz Yakin
    Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes

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