There are two things that audiences expect from a Jason Statham movie: 1. heart pounding action and 2. elaborate car chases that put them at the edge of their seats. On these two counts, Safe does deliver. As for whether or not the movie reaches the level of Statham’s greatest offerings, I’m not quite sure.
Ah Mei is an elementary student from China who is gifted on the subject of numbers. Her extraordinary talents catch the attention of the Chinese Triad so they take her hostage to use her as a human database for their operations in the United States. Luke Wright is a reformed hitman who ekes out a living as a mixed martial artist for the underground circuit. During a fight, he inadvertedly costs the Russian Mafia a pretty penny by knocking down and permanently injuring a rising star whom the Mafia has bet millions of dollars on. As punishment, the Mafia kills his wife and keeps him alive, but shadows his every move and kills anyone he ever gets close to. Backed into a wall, Luke tries to kill himself but not before he spies a little girl being chased by mobsters on the subway. The girl turns out to be Ah Mei, who survives an ambush on her car by the Russians to get hold of a set of numbers she has memorized, numbers so precious that they unlock a safe with millions of dollars and an incriminating disc that could put an end to the Chinese Triad.
The plot for Safe actually has great potential with the amount of conspiracies and double crosses integrated into its main story. Aside from the gangster warfare between the Russians and the Chinese in New York, corrupt policemen also join the fray by selling their loyalty to the higherst bidder. I got a kick out of seeing Robert John Burke, who plays Bart Bass in one of my guilty pleasures Gossip Girl as Chief Wolf, one of the most bad ass cops I’ve seen on the big screen in a while. Director and screenwriter Boaz Yakin, who incidentally wrote the screenplay for Prince of Persia really dug deep into his experiences as a New Yorker to come up with such an intricate plotline.
The fight choreography, which I read was one of Statham’s main criteria for choosing movies to star in, was also top notch, ranging from hand to hand combat, grapling, stunts, gunbattles and all sorts of ass-kickery. However, I confess that I fell asleep during the earlier parts of the movie while the conflicts were still being established. I just felt that the transitioning was lacking in coherence, especially when the film was going back and forth between China and the US , and between scenes featuring Ah Mei and Luke.
As a result, the movie read like a two-act play, wherein the first part was dull and boring and relied mainly on lengthy dialogues and negotiations. During the second act, however, the filmmakers pushed the pedal to the action and held nothing back in establishing that Safe is indeed an action movie and that there should be no doubt that they know what they are doing.
All in all, there was really nothing safe about the movie. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I loved it. I just felt that there was something missing but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, as yet.