To sum up Boaz Yakin’s “Safe” in one sentence: A trashy B action flick that caters to all of Jason Statham’s (you know, “The Transporter” and a dozen other movies that involve him as a great fighter and killer and an efficient driver) strengths as an actor.
And I have a feeling that’s exactly the kind of movie Yakin wanted to make…and did.
In it, we get to see Statham beating up and/or killing an awful lot of bad guys, sometimes very creatively. In one instance he tosses multiple plates like Frisbees. In his script Yakin (it’s hard to believe this is the guy who directed “Remember the Titians”) throws in just about everything you can think of that would belong in an action film. There’s Russian gangsters, Chinese gangsters, corrupt cops, lots of double crosses and betrayals, and of course money. And there’s the element of innocence in the form of a young Chinese math prodigy named Mei (Catherine Chen).
All I have to say about her is: poor thing. The poor girl has been taken from her homeland by her own people, kidnapped by the Russians, targeted by the cops, and all the while has had to witness endless killings and violence. The Chinese gangsters have given her a long code to a safe that contains thirty million dollars and both the cops and the Russian gangsters want it.
By luck (practically) Statham’s character Luke (he could have just been left unnamed) runs into the girl. As it turns out he’s not having such a good time either. The same Russian gangsters that are pursuing Mei kill his wife (who we don’t see) because he wouldn’t intentionally lose in a cage fight. And not to mention he’s an ex cop and those corrupt cops aren’t too happy with him either. So what does Luke do? He protects Mei, while shooting and beating up assorted bad guys left and right. Yeah!
“Safe” pretty much throws logic out the window. This is clear the moment Luke takes on a group of the Russians on a crowded subway, shoots one, and then casually gets off and moves on. The picture isn’t really clever or inconspicuous about anything. If the Chinese gangsters want to get Luke and Mei who are staying at a fancy hotel, they will hold up the place and have a massive shoot out with the cops, only to smoothly drive off. The movie’s environment is just a playground for Statham and others to have ridiculous action set pieces.
Now, within those absurd boundaries, the movie is mildly entertaining. Yakin is basically saying: “Yeah, I’m not going to try and make sense. Take it or leave it.” The movie embraces the silliness it creates while at the same time playing it straight. If you can get used to those bounds then you shouldn’t have a problem enjoying the movie.
I’m not going to tell you “Safe” is great, or even that good. The movie moves so fast, that there are a number of abrupt and awkward cuts, like Yakin is so impatient to get through each scene. The music is slightly over the top and most of the actors are reduced to saying corny action movie lines. But as far as trash flicks go, it’s simple, short and there are some giddily enjoyable action sequences. Yakin knows what kind movie he’s making, whether that’s something you are willing to spend your time and money on is solely up to you.