Have you seen a Jason Statham movie? How about the Transporter trilogy? If you have, then you have seen everything that Safe has to offer. But wait, this time there’s something different – the Transporter films have Statham driving recklessly and shooting bullets while trying to save women, but Safe has Statham driving recklessly and shooting bullets while trying to save a little kid.
It’s tough to be so dismissive of an action movie, especially one that is directed by Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans), but when a film has nothing to offer besides clichéd characters and a scrubby collection of outdated shootouts, car chases and plot twists that we've seen a dozen times before in better movies, it’s easy to be a bit annoyed.
Here we have Luke, a former cop turned cage fighter turned bum whose pregnant wife is killed by Russian gangsters after he fails to pay his debts. Luke is living on the streets and is drawn towards suicide, only to have second thoughts when he sees a little Chinese girl being chased down by thugs at a train station. Turns out the girl is a mathematical genius who was dragged from China to New York by the Chinese mafia to organize an underground casino circuit. Locked away in her photographic memory is a secret code that the Chinese, the Russians and corrupt NYPD are after, and Luke must drive, shoot, kick, punch, hurl one liners and blaze through the town to save the girl.
Now none of the characters are worth caring about, and unfortunately almost the entire first half of the film is dedicated to long drawn, ham fisted attempts at characterization. And that means you have to spend close to half an hour waiting for the action to begin, and when it does arrive it’s not all very exciting. Jason Statham is his usual wisecracking butt-kicking self and one quickfire action scene in a Chinatown bar is passably entertaining. There are also some mildly interesting special effects incorporated to produce long takes in car chases, but you’ll have to meander through a lot of boring over-serious patches to get to the goodies.
Watch Safe if you’ve huge posters of Jason Statham in your bedroom. The man is undoubtedly the modern day Jean Clause Van Damme, but he deserves much better roles.
(First published in Mid Day)