When it comes to action films starring Jason Statham there’s always a fairly innocuous formula to putting it together. First thing you need is him in some sort of capacity as a cop, crook or soldier type. Throw in the usual Statham style of perma-stubble and tightly cropped hair, mix in a near mastery of firearms and martial arts, of course, and a name ludicrous enough to not exist anywhere but in an action film. Plus the film has to be named something ridiculous that sounds like it’d be in a fake film poster for a better film.
What’s left is the basic ingredients to make a film “Stathamy” but not necessarily good. Good is a relative quality when it comes to quality with a Statham-starring film, though, and it’s rare you get one that’s more than perfectly acceptable. That’s what Safe is: perfectly acceptable.
Luke Wright (Statham) is a former New York detective who was kicked off the force. Taking MMA fights after seeing his life implode, he contemplates suicide when he runs into a little girl (Catherine Chan) running from all sorts of bad guys. Becoming her guardian angel in a way, it’s up to Wright to figure out why the Russian and Chinese mobs, as well as the NYPD, want her for their own purposes. She can remember any number and a series of numbers she has memorized could lead to something lucrative for all of them. Thus the race is on to try and track the girl down while also taking on her newfound bodyguard.
Fairly perfunctory, Safe is a pure genre film that doesn’t really reach above being slightly above average. There isn’t any decent level of acting outside of the usually capable genre work of Statham but it’s not embarrassing either; this is a film that doesn’t quite teeter towards direct to video action film but doesn’t distinguish itself as anything but a replaceable action film that debuts right before the summer blockbuster season.
It doesn’t hurt that the film is shot with the shaky-cam style of Paul Greengrass but without the sort of nuanced story-telling Greengrass brings to the table. Yakin uses the shaky-cam to try and pull off an elevated sense of intensity but unfortunately it makes the film nearly indecipherable. It’s tough to view because it gets easy to lose track of the film because Yakin makes it difficult to follow the action. A similar film in this regard would be the Rob Zombie version of Halloween which was a similar genre film of acceptable quality but borderline unwatchable because of how it’s shot.
It’s not as if the film would be a masterpiece without the shaky-cam style shooting. This is an action film that barely elevates itself beyond DTV level in terms of production quality, amongst other things, and as such it nearly wears its welcome out despite clocking in at barely over 90 minutes. When Jason Statham finishes up 2012 Safe won’t be listed as a highlight.
Writer / Director: Boaz Yakin Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Chris Sarandon, Robert John Burke, Catherine Chan, James Hong