May 1, 2012

Movie Review: Safe

It's kind of funny. This year has seen me lamenting the death of the B-movie more and more, coincidentally coinciding with me shifting gears as a movie aficionado. Now I have been confronted with a series of films that seek to evoke the feel of the B-movie without trying to be an homage to the genre. The latest of these movies is the Jason Statham action vehicle Safe. Here is a movie that of it had been made a quarter century ago would have starred Steven Seagal. As a matter of fact, as I left the theater I had a desire to watch some old school Seagal (which I did, I watched Under Siege).

Safe is a movie that is patently absurd, over the top violent, surprisingly comical, and just what I was looking for. It is a movie bereft of complicated plot turns and built upon a series of increasingly violent sequences until the inevitable conclusion. It does not require any manner of deep thought, just a desire to be entertained, again, much like those old school actioners from the 1980s.

If I have any complaints about the movie, it is that the opening is way to convoluted. You see, rather than jumping right into the story, they place you right before our main characters meet and then jump backwards in time through their recent history. One hour ago, one month ago, one year ago, four months later, three weeks later, and so on back to the "present" where the first scene takes place before settling on a more straightforward path.

The story follows a twelve-year-old Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan). Mei is very good with math and a criminal organization, run by Mr. Han (James Hong) takes her away from her mother, ship her to America and use her to keep the books. Well, things go downhill after she memorizes a long sequence of numbers. While en route to get another number, presumably a code, they are blindsided by Russian criminals intent on getting the number. Mei eventually escapes and is saved from a group of thugs by a complete stranger.

That brings us to Luke Wright (Jason Statham). He is a cage fighter who pissed off his Russian bosses, a snitch cop, and some manner of special forces operative. Whatever he was, he is nothing now, his wife was murdered and he is left alone with bad guys watching at all times. With nothing to live for, he happens to spy Mei and her problems. In her he finds a reason to live. He takes her under his wing and fights to protect her from the Chinese, the Russians, and wen corrupt cops. When it comes to bad guys, Safe has a little bit of everything.

There really is not much to Safe. Down on his luck good guy protects a defenseless girl from a bunch of bad guys, end of story. Nothing new or particularly fresh, which begs the question, why does it work and why do I like it?

The answer, like the movie, is simple. Safe is fun. It reminds me of those old school action movies from the 1980's and the film's star is also reminiscent of those hard nosed stars of the past. There's a reason he is included among the legends in The Expendables.

Safe is a movie on rails, a throwback that doesn't act like a throwback. We get car chases, fist fights, and shootouts. We have a bad ass lead who is always ready with a punch or a quip. We have desperate bad guys willing to throw all of heir foot soldiers into the mix. There really isn't anything not to like about it.

This is not to say it is a perfect or even great movie. Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, the movie is nicely paced and is just an entertainment and nothing more. It almost feels like Yakin was looking to his past when making this one, his first credit was for writing the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher. That is another movie I enjoy.

This is no a movie that will win any awards, hell, I may be one of the few to legitimately like it. Jason Statham is actually a pretty good actor (see The Bank Job and The Italian Job, for example), but I think I like him better in films like this where he can show off his action skills. So, of you like action, go check this one out.



Post a Comment