Ah, the enjoyably ridiculous action movie. It was something that Arnold Schwarzenegger elevated to an art form in 1985 with Commando (“I eat green berets for breakfast, and right now, I’m very hungry”). Jason Statham has been doing pretty good business along similar lines with the likes of Crank which has its tongue firmly planted into its bestubbled cheek and now Safe can be added to that roster.
It sees him play Luke Wright, an ex-cop turned cage fighter who has his wife murdered by Russian gangsters after he refuses to take a dive. But rather than shoot him, they make him a promise – that they’ll kill anyone that he makes friends with.
Close to ending it on a subway platform, he notices young Chinese girl Mei being chased by a group of Russian mobsters. After stepping in to rescue her, he learns that her photographic memory is being used to store a series of cryptic numbers and that hot on her heels are not only the Russians but the Chinese Triads (lead by ageless veteran James Hong) and corrupt members of New York’s finest.
Statham delivers as a charismatic lead, kicking, punching and shooting his way through swathes of bad guys, running people over in cars and generally causing enough urban chaos to rival the set of Avengers Assemble.
Unfortunately, he’s decided to adopt an unnecessary makeshift American accent which he frequently forgets to do and while the set up is intriguing, it’s soon revealed to be nothing but a front for the assorted violent antics. Furthermore, the purpose of the numbers in Mei’s head is revealed to ultimately be rather pedestrian and feels like a letdown after such a build up.
Still, you didn’t come to see a Stath movie for its meditations on life the universe and everything, you came to see action. Director Boaz Yakin keeps the pace high throughout ensuring that there’s probably not more than five or six minutes that go by where someone isn’t being shot or crippled by Statham (a fight in a restaurant is a particular highlight).
It also scores by not taking itself too seriously. At one point someone exclaims “This is getting out of control”, something which should probably have been uttered half an hour earlier when the body count was only in the mid-twenties. Stath himself has also been gifted with some great comedy wisecracks (sample “you’ve got balls coming back here Luke” “Yeah, it’s amazing I can walk”), which ensure that the old school flavour is retained throughout its running time.
It’s certainly not life changing but for flash in the pan, dumb action fun, you can’t go far wrong. A worthy addition to the ever expanding Stath beat ‘em up back catalogue.