Sunday, 29 April 2012
FILM REVIEW: SAFE
Icon Film Distribution
Safe is not just the title of the new Jason Statham action vehicle -- whereby a former secret agent fallen on hard times must redeem himself by saving the life of a young girl -- but pretty much sums up the treatment by writer-director, Boaz Yakin.
While not entirely predictable, Safe is an uninspired action film which features more fire power than fisticuffs as Luke Wright (Statham) sets about rescuing young Mei (Catherine Chan) from both the Chinese Triad and a group of New York Russian mobsters.
The Triad, who have held Mei for more than a year after discovering her mathematical and memory retention skills in Beijing, use her as a human calculator; dispensing with a paper trail by committing all of their illegal business dealings to the 11-year-old's memory.
That's where Triad leader, Han Jiao (James Hong, a.k.a Kung Fu Panda's dad), places the combination to a safe containing $30 million in cash. And that's what the Russians want, staging a brazen kidnapping in downtown New York.
Certain sections of the NYPD also want the girl -- or rather, what she can lead them to -- and when they come calling on the Russians, Mei manages to escape. It's here, hiding on a subway platform, that she comes to the attention of Wright, who's about to throw himself under a train.
Wright, turned-on by his former NYPD partners for turning informant, and having his life made a living hell by the same Russian mobsters chasing Mei -- they killed his wife when he failed to take a previously arranged dive in a cage fight (his post-police career) -- has had his life reduced to vagrancy.
Wright doesn't have a lot to live for but Mei may well be his redemption -- if he can keep her, you know, safe.
Child-in-danger movies are nothing new, and sadly, Safe brings nothing new to the genre. Chan makes Mei a strong-willed young girl but the relationship between her and Wright is never fully developed. He's neither fatherly nor a mentor to the youngster; not quite Bruce Willis in Mercury Rising (1998), or Jean Reno's Leon in The Professional (1994), although Safe is much closer to the former than the latter in quality.
But Jason Statham is no Bruce Willis. The one-time British Olympic diver who made his film debut in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), has neither the charisma or the acting chops (never thought I'd write that!) of the Die Hard hero.
Like Liam Neeson in Taken, Statham has a very particular set of skills and they're very limited. Statham's fans may be sated by Safe, but more discerning action fans should play it safe and look elsewhere.