Someday Jason Statham may very well decide to take a break and go the Schwarzenegger route of occasionally playing a lovable family man (Jingle All the Way, Junior) after years of body-wrenching fights and stunts.
But hopefully it won’t be anytime soon.
While Statham’s latest, Boaz Yakin’s Safe, is not his best movie, it does exactly what it sets out to do– showcase Statham as a kick-ass good guy of the highest order, a man who always gets the job done even while bullets zip around him like mosquitoes in the Everglades.
In Safe, Statham plays the aptly-named Luke Wright– a former NYC cop who moved onto to the mixed martial arts circuit before finally becoming homeless (there’s a whole lot more backstory there, but we’ll leave it at that).
With his life in the crapper, he’s this close to ending it all when he notices a gang of Russian thugs tracking a pre-teen girl (newcomer Catherine Chan) through the subway station. He comes to the rescue, only to find out that the Chinese Triads are using the girl, who’s a math prodigy, as a human computer to memorize all kinds of codes and numbers.
Before he can blink, Wright has the Russian mob, Chinese gangs, and half of the (apparently) very corrupt NYPD after him and the girl. Car chases, shootouts, fistfights, more car chases, and more shootouts are the order of the day, and they’re all choreographed with neck-snapping precision by Jon Valera and J.J. Perry. (Hey, credit where credit’s due.)
Yakin (Remember the Titans), who also wrote the screenplay, has put together a pulse-pounding bit of guys-beating-up-guys craziness. The plot sometimes get a little too complicated for its own good, and the old movie cliché that allows bullets to only harm bad guys and miss good guys is in full effect, but Yakin wisely keeps the action at full-throttle throughout.
Statham drives Safe with a performance that not only showcases his fists of fury but also his heart and brains; there are moments where you can see he will indeed have an acting future once he ‘gets too old for this’ stuff. The rest of the cast, though, is largely forgettable, save Chris Sarandon in a bit role as the slimy mayor and always-solid James Hong as the leader of the Chinese underworld.
Yakin may well have played it a little, well, safe with the script, but Statham does more than enough to keep Safe sound.