In Home Viewings: "Safe"

By winning an MMA cage fight in which he was supposed to take a fall, Luke Wright (Jason Statham) runs afoul of the Russian mob. Instead of just killing him outright, the mob runners kill his wife and tell him that if he ever gets close to anyone again, they’ll murder that person, too, leaving Wright in a perpetual state of guilt and loneliness. He drifts from place to place, longing for death but too prideful to end his own life. Things change for Wright, however, when he stumbles across Mei (Catherine Chan), a young girl with a gift for numbers who is at the heart of a bloody battle between the Chinese, the Russians, and the dirty NYPD officers Wright used to work with. Having put himself in the line of fire for all three groups, as well as Mayor Tremello (Chris Sarandon), Wright hatches a dangerous plan to keep Mei safe and settle some old debts in the process.

Whether or not you’re a Statham, you have to give the guy some credit for milking his moment in the sun for all its worth. He is, shall we say, limited as an actor and his work is far from varied. He is, however, very, very good at what he does and he has now put together a decade of titles in which he has cracked skulls with the best of them. Statham has experienced a longevity that I never would have imagined and he shows no signs of being slowed down by stinkers like Killer Elite or In the Name of the King (*shudder*). More than anything else, the man is likeable and as such, we (read: “I”) keep coming back to his films unquestioningly, almost absentmindedly. “Statham has a new movie? Welp, I guess I’ll be seeing that at some point” is a sentence I’ve said to myself a dozen times over the last few years. I never expect much, and many times I come away unimpressed, but I always come back for more.

Safe might just be the best movie Statham has headlined to date. It has a slightly different tone to it than, say, The Transporter in that it is far less concerned with style and one-liners. Instead, Safe has a surprisingly good plot with which to work and takes a few twists that I did not see coming. It doesn’t take itself too seriously (thankfully) and it isn’t what you would call “sophisticated” but there’s a well-rounded script at play here that continually puts Wright and Mei in better-than-average situations. Wright is a strong character and he displays a depth that you don’t usually get with Statham. Mei is a quality compliment to Wright and she is a fitting spark for his rejuvenation.

Safe delivers some excellent action sequences (duh) that allow Statham to show off his most marketable skills but it also has an energy about it that I felt was missing from other Statham films of late. It moves at a brisk pace without cutting corners and continually pumps in more adrenaline in relatively smart ways. There’s one twist toward the end that could have used a little more elaboration and I wish director Boaz Yakin (of Remember the Titans fame) would have upped Sarandon’s screentime a bit as I felt that character could have been a bigger player. But all in all, Safe hits the mark on everything you want from a small-scale action flick and reminded me once again of why Statham continues to draw me in.