During the eighties there was a clear league table of action movie stars. By the mid-nineties this system fell into decline and the Hollywood lacked any clearly defined exponents of the genre. A decade later, due to the success of Luc Besson’s Transporter films, Jason Statham became a bankable box office star in this field. When you look at Statham's early work in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels it is hard to envisage the "mockney geezer" as an international action star. Yet he has successfully stepped into the role and enjoys a large following. I enjoy his work as he has a likeable on-screen persona. My 88-year-old Mum likes him to because "he wears nice suits". The action genre seldom reaches such a diverse demographic.
Safe is a throwback movie. It's central plot theme is very seventies. It seems to be an integral part of the action movie stars rite of passage, that at some point they have to make a movie involving a child (special needs is optional), a pet or sundry exotic animal. Therefore, when I saw the trailer for Safe, the first thing I thought of was Bruce Willis in Mercury Rising. The similarities are quite apparent. In Safe, Statham plays Luke Wright, a New York law enforcer turned cage fighter whose wife has been killed by the Russian mob. He encounters on Mei (Catherine Chan) on the subway and intervenes when she is attacked by assassins. The eleven-year-old maths prodigy is the key to crime boss Han Jiao (James Hong) accounts system and therefore a huge liability in the wrong hands. Wright swears to protect her and so the bodies start piling up.
Director Boaz Yakin’s script is again very old school. It depicts a very modern Manhattan as a hotbed of corruption as you would see in many seventies’ movies such as Serpico. The entire bureaucracy is on the take from the mayor (Chris Sarandon) down to the street cops. It should also be noted that even with the required suspension of disbelief needed to watch such movies, Safe taxes credibility to the extreme with the level of mayhem that ensues. The dialogue is ripe and the acting consists of the cast shouting at each other in-between chewing the scenery. With regard to the action scenes, there are an adequate amount of set pieces, with hand to hand combat and sundry shootings. Nothing is exceptional but nor is anything substandard. Movies such as Safe require a liberal helping of action and sufficient is supplied. But there is nothing of note. Do not go expecting a bravura ending like in Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Yet despite these numerous faults, Safe bowls along under the power of its own insane internal logic. It also does exactly what it says on the side of the tin and somehow manages to entertain on a basic level. A lot of this comes down to Jason Statham. He has the ability to carry a film such as this. It is far from his finest work but overall, it’s acceptable. And so Safe simply joins the ever-growing list of tolerable action movies that are ideal for late night consumption, sans any major critical analysis. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see that as a bad thing. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, not every film can be a critical success or a genre milestone. Material such as this fills a very particular niche in the market, serves a specific function and has its fans.