Safe (2012) a (mildly) belated review

If there seems to be one thing you can expect to find every few months in the theaters is a Jason Statham action/adventure film.  You have to admire the man’s ability to find steady work.  In 2011, for example, IMDB lists four films he appeared in…though at least one, Gnomeo & Juliet, only featured his voice work.

2012 was a little “slower” a year for him as he appeared in only two features, Expendables 2 and the film that’s the focus of this review: Safe.

Like too many of Mr. Statham’s latest films, this one seemed to come and go rather abruptly from theaters, yet I recalled reading several positive reviews and decided to give it a try.

Did I waste my time?

As it turned out, I didn’t, though as good as I ultimately felt the movie was, it had the potential to be a truly great film…and just fell short.

Safe treads plenty of familiar ground.  We have Mr. Statham playing the role of Luke Wright, a moody fellow who somehow got involved in an MMA fight that went horribly wrong and put him on the bad side of some Russian mobsters.  They killed his wife and effectively (so it seemed!) shut his life down.  The Russian mob warned him they would constantly watch his movements and anyone he got to close to would be killed.  Likewise, he was told he could not put down any roots, as any home or apartment he tried to live in would be destroyed and anyone living near him would be killed.

Meanwhile, the mob in China has sniffed out a gifted young student named Mei (Catherine Chan) and transferred her to New York, where her incredible gift for mathematics allows them to use her to keep track of all their numbers.  As the leader of the Chinese mob notes, he favors using this gifted girl as that way there is no “paper or electronic trail” to point incriminating fingers toward his organization.

Ultimately, Mei is tasked to see and recall a series of mysterious numbers for some mysterious purpose.  She does as asked, but before she can use the numbers the Russian mob (the same individuals that crossed Luke Wright) kidnap the girl.  The police get involved, but it turns out they’re just as corrupt as both the Chinese and Russian mobs, and a three way power play results when Mei escapes her captors and is loose on the streets of New York.

While loose, who do you suppose she happens to run into?

What follows are some good stunts and bone-crushing (yet not overwhelmingly bloody) violence as the damaged Wright takes Mei under his wing and tries to skirt the minefield erected by the various corrupt officials…including, as we soon find, the mayor of New York himself.

It is at that point, I felt, that the movie was at its best.  When the revelations were made about who exactly Luke Wright was and what his place in this chain of corruption was, I found myself quite excited.  Though the movie isn’t exactly the most original thing I’ve seen (the 1998 Bruce Willis/Alec Baldwin film Mercury Rising had a very similar plot), the revelations regarding Wright were intriguing and produced an almost Yojimbo-like sequence where our anti-hero began playing the players against each other.

Add to that a very intriguing (and surprising!) main villain showdown in the later stages of the film and there were certainly the potential for this film to really knock it out of the park.

But what was the potentially strongest part of this film, the surprise main villain, unfortunately played out a little too quickly for my taste.  I wish more time could have been devoted to explaining who this person was and why he and Wright were destined to collide.

Having said that, Safe is one of the better of the more recent Jason Statham vehicles.  Despite some flaws, I would certainly recommend it as a good action time-killer.