Depending on your level of admiration for action star Jason Statham you’re either going to be highly anticipating his latest offering, Safe, or be ready to add it to the list of “same old, same old” that’s far longer than any of his that would be deemed memorable.
But rest assured that Safe is a cut above most of Statham’s work so far, an admittedly ridiculous action thriller that makes up for its formulaic crime plotline with some genuinely exhilarating action sequences – combat and chase alike – and a charismatic turn from the closest thing we have to an 80s action star.
Statham plays Luke Wright, formerly the toughest cop in New York City who gets caught up in a battle between the Chinese Triads, the Russian mob and corrupt police officers. At the centre of it is a Chinese girl who is being hunted down for a special sequence of numbers she holds in her memory. Wright takes it upon himself to both help the little girl, as well as trying to use the code to outwit those who are after it.
Safe doesn’t do much to make itself memorable, filled with the usual array of tough bad guys spouting even tougher bad guy talk that’s often laid on so thickly that you feel the movie has to be laughing at itself rather than moving forward thinking it all sounds perfectly believable. It is, however, undoubtedly entertaining when it needs to be, Statham once again flexing his muscles (so to speak) as an action star and bringing along with him the type of quick-paced fighting we’ve come to expect from him. It works a lot better here than it has in many of his previous films because its frenetic pacing, inventive intricacies of Statham’s own brand of action and diverse locations – subway train, busy street, night-club – rarely let up. However, its originality is confined to the ranks of Statham’s movies, and it certainly won’t go down as an action classic (although very few do these days).
In spite of a wooden performance by newcomer Catherine Chan (though there’s a certain amount of leeway needed to be given for such an inexperienced youngster), there’s actually a heart to the movie, found in the unlikely relationship formed by Statham and Mei, the little girl he’s attempting to keep safe (see what they did there?). A tad forced, perhaps, but it’s nice to have at least an attempt at something beyond pure action and predictable plot twists.
Directed by the diverse Boaz Yakin, whose previous films include Remember the Titans, Uptown Girls and Death In Love, Safe is easily one of the better action movies Team Statham has had to offer yet. To some that might not be saying much, I know, but there’s something to be admired about a film that commits to its action-thriller concept in such a bold way, warts and all.
Safe is released in the UK on May 4th.