In his latest effort to almost single-handedly bring back the feeling of every Cannon Films release from the 1980s, Jason Statham racks up one of his highest body counts to date in director Boaz Yakin’s Safe. Once again playing a lone bad ass assigned to taking a defenceless person under his wing while on a hunt for revenge and answers, Safe stands as a testament to Statham’s magnetism that the film doesn’t feel old and tired at all. The story can be pretty silly, but it’s just enough to hold the action sequences together with no more or less needed.
Luke (Statham) is a former NYPD internal affairs snitch from a branch of the force that “no one even knew existed” who now makes his living as a half assed cage fighter. After accidentally putting a fighter into a coma instead of throwing the fight like he should have, the Russian mob kills his wife, but lets him live on in hopes that he’ll commit suicide. To sweeten the suicide deal, anyone Luke talks to or befriends will be murdered.
As he’s about to kill himself, he crosses paths with a little girl named Mei (newcomer Catherine Chan), a math whiz kidnapped from China by the Triads (lead by famed character actor James Hong) to run and crunch numbers without leaving a paper trail. A set of numbers Mei has memorized has made her a necessary asset for both the Chinese and the same Russians who killed Luke’s wife. With nothing to lose and with some crooked cops willing to find and sell the girl to the highest bidder, Luke and Mei travel the city in search of the answers behind the numbers and why everyone wants to kill for them.
The set-up for Safe is really deftly handled by writer-director Yakin (Fresh, Remember the Titans) because it adequately builds some dramatic tension before allowing Statham to go into full on ass kicking mode. The parallels between Luke and Mei and how their situations are cosmically and karmically entwined are somewhat more interesting than the gunplay that follows. Once the bodies start hitting the floor, however, the film does become a bit more standard and uninspired, but no less fun and amusing thanks to Statham’s patented blend of brusque wit and style. An amusing throwaway sequence where he enters a departments store to ditch his tattered hoodie in favour of one of Statham’s almost trademark dapper looking suits speaks to the knowing nature of the film. Yakin and Statham know what the audience wants and that they’ve seen it before.
While Statham puts in typically strong work with his fists and his tongue, his interplay with Chan also feels natural and believable. The supporting cast also boasts some good performances from Robert John Burke as Luke’s former NYPD superior who works for whoever can give him the biggest payday and Chris Sarandon as the city’s mayor who has to give one of the best action movie expositional speeches in recent memory while describing just who the cops are fucking with.
The myriad of shootouts all look pretty samey after a while, but they contrast nicely with a pretty great, albeit low key ending. It’s not groundbreaking, but it does offer up a healthy amount of entertainment by never being boring and keeping the story moving at a good clip. In short, it’s pretty much every Jason Statham movie ever made, but fans should find nothing to fault with that.