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Safe (2012)
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by Brett Gallman

"It's safe to say you've seen this before."
3 stars

Jason Statham seems to choose projects in the same way the rest of us choose missions in a video game; for “Safe,” he’s selected “escort mission” again, and it results in a familiar combination.

His ward for this film is Mei (Catherine Chan), a pre-teen math whiz who gets plucked from school to be a human bean-counter for the Chinese mob. Her prodigious photographic memory also makes her brain the perfect place to store a combination to a safe whose contents are valued not only by the Chinese, but also Russian gangsters and the city’s crooked cop force. Mei eventually makes a break for it, and her escape route intersects with Luke Evan’s (Statham) own personal crossroads; a former whistle-blowing cop turned shaggy cage fighter, he has little to live for until he sees the opportunity to protect Mei from her pursuers.

There are moments when you’re tempted to ask for a time-out so you can untangle all the nonsense here, especially when the script begins shoveling a bunch of it in the backdoor. You’re better off just going with it--even looking back on it now, I’m still not sure I can sort it all out, not completely anyway. Without hesitation, I can say that Statham and Chan find themselves with Chinese to their left, Russians to their right, and sleaze-ball cops hovering about everywhere--and Statham beats the shit out of every one of them.

“Safe” is a bruising little number that piles up every trope and cliché that you’ve seen in other movies (many of them starring Statham), and it does so without any sort of pretension or awareness as it patches together a seedy, grit-filled New York City crime drama. Despite its somewhat overwrought plot mechanics, there are just enough silly contrivances to keep them oiled and in working order so “Safe” is able to barrel from a subway fistfight to an impressive wrong-way car chase. Sprinkled in between is a modicum of not-so-veiled threats that suffice as expository dialogue, many of which come with gunfire as an added exclamation point.

Boaz Yakin isn’t known as an action director, having helmed the likes of “Remember the Titans” and “Uptown Girls,” and “Safe” doesn’t make any great case for him to be considered one. The action is of the typical herky-jerky sort that sees the camera darting about and capturing just enough impact. Occasional moments of visceral brilliance make it through, such as a restaurant brawl that features a couple of incredible stunt bumps, and “Safe” isn’t so slick that it completely burnishes its often unflinching violence.

Even though its rough-and-tumble sensibilities emerge as its calling card, “Safe” doesn’t come without a decent attempt to weave something a little more compelling beneath its battered musculature by crafting a solid tether in Statham. For the past decade, Statham has been occupying the space once held by Jean Claude Van-Damme--the vulnerable, tough guy with a heart of gold whose an action-star first and an actor second.

Statham has been much more successful in convincing us that he can do the second part, perhaps because he doesn’t have to wrestle with a language barrier, and “Safe” gives him another opportunity to carve into this niche. Between his receding hair line and diminutive stature, he’s never struck me as an action star, but his perpetual five-o-clock shadow and glowering demeanor offset such concerns. Plus, he can fire off wisecracks as effortlessly as he can punch people in the face, and he gets to do all of this in “Safe.” His pairing with a little girl doesn’t do much to blunt his edges, and the script thankfully resists the urge to become a shrill kid-buddy flick by actually keeping Statham and Chan apart more than you might expect.

Instead, much of the film has Statham wading through the filth and grime of this world--I hesitate to call it an “underworld,” so pervasive is the seediness--that pits him against the likes of James Hong (still causing big trouble in Chinatown after all these years) and Chris Sarandon (who has graduated from charismatic cop duties to the role of an unseemly mayor). Such talent would usually indicate a brawny effort to heft “Safe” into a stratosphere beyond B-movie junk, but don’t expect that.

In the annuls of Statham films, “Safe” lodges itself into the middle of the pack and strikes with just enough force to leave a bruise that’ll likely last until you see him do this sort of thing again in “The Expendables 2.”

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22553&reviewer=429
originally posted: 05/02/12 16:55:32
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User Comments

9/11/12 The Taitor Mildly entertaining with some decent but inflated scenes. Borderline rental. 3 stars
9/09/12 mr.mike Tough crime flick is one of Stathams best. 4 stars
5/11/12 matthew thompson dalldorf This is the first time I've ever seen Statham act & he does so while still delivering acti 5 stars
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  27-Apr-2012 (R)
  DVD: 04-Sep-2012


  DVD: 04-Sep-2012

Directed by
  Boaz Yakin

Written by
  Boaz Yakin

  Jason Statham
  Danni Lang
  James Colby
  Chris Sarandon
  James Hong
  Anson Mount
  Robert John Burke
  Reggie Lee

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