Director: Boaz Yakin
Stars: Jason Statham, Catherin Chan, Robert John Burke, Chris Sarandon, James Hong
JASON Statham certainly has had a chequered career. For every memorable moment in The Bank Job, Snatch, The Italian Job or Rogue Assassin there are equally disappointing backslides such as In the Name of the King, Blitz and Killer Elite. It’s hard to find your groove as an action hero, but with The Expendables 2 looming on the horizon and an engaging and brutal performance in Boaz Yakin’s Safe Statham looks like he is on the comeback trail.
Writer/director Boaz Yakin returns to the director’s chair with an uncompromising and harsher take on street justice in Safe. Yakin is no stranger to the genre penning the Dolph Lundgren vehicle The Punisher, the Clint Eastwood and Charlie Sheen buddy cop team up The Rookie and more recently Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Safe may be his best offering yet.
Luke Wright (Statham) is an ex-special forces operative who ekes out a sorry existence. Haunted by a mistake that cost him everything he loved and hounded by the Russian Mob, he is forced to live on the streets with anyone who gets close to him paying a terrible price. Mei (Chan), a child prodigy and mathematical genius, suffers a similar fate. Her talent for recognising numerical patterns and uncanny memory has forced her into service as a living accounts record for the Triads.
When Triad boss Han Jiao (Hong) gives Mei a specific code to memorise, she realises it is actually the combination to a safe containing 30 million dollars. Fearing for her life she escapes and becomes the focal point of a citywide hunt with the Triads, the Russian Mob and a contingent of corrupt cops tearing apart New York to find her and claim the money for themselves. Crossing paths with Wright on the subway provides the catalyst to snap Wright into action as he protects the diminutive girl genius from the criminal elements hot on her trail.
With shades of Luc Besson’s Leon, Safe is a wild and often incredibly violent ride with an economy of dialogue and in your face viscerally shot sequences. Statham is at his best here brooding menacingly, delivering bone crunching fight scenes, classic one-liners and even the occasional convincing emotional moment on his road to redemption. Chan provides a softer counterpoint showing maturity far beyond her years and the two work surprisingly well together. Chris Sarandon (Fright Night) and James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) are perfectly cast foils and while neither break a sweat in their roles they do play their parts rather well with an air of menace and detached indifference.
Safe is entertaining, excessively violent, has a solid extended cast and some beautifully unexpected poignant moments. Statham’s brutality evokes images of a young Steven Seagal to leave the action junkies thoroughly satisfied, while the softer moments between Statham and Chan give the film balance and broader appeal. Safe is a great return to form for Statham and bodes extremely well for his future in the action genre.
SAFE is in cinemas 10 May, 2012.
Review: Dave Kozicki