Friday, November 23, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Safe (2012)

And now for something completely different!

After watching a pair of family movies over the past day, it was time to mix things up and watch an action flick.

That movie was SAFE (2012), headlined by action star Jason Statham. My daughter and I had watched the trailer a few days ago and agreed on it as our next Netflix DVD for the long holiday weekend.

In this film written and directed by Boaz Yakin, Statham plays Luke Wright, a "cage" fighter who doesn't throw a match. His opponent ends up in a coma and the Russian mafia goes after Luke, killing his wife (a moment thankfully unseen) and telling Luke that wherever he goes, he'll be watched and they'll kill anyone he befriends.

Mixed with this storyline, we're introduced to Mei (Catherine Chan), a 12-year-old Chinese genius with a photographic memory. A Chinese crime boss (James Hong) recognizes her value and forces her to go to work for the gang in the United States, memorizing and calculating important numbers no one wants entrusted to paper.

When Mei is tasked with memorizing a very long, unusually important number, suddenly everyone is after her, not just the Russian and Chinese mobs but also crooked cops. Luke, who has been despondent, saves Mei when he sees her being followed by bad guys on a subway; in helping her finds he will also have a chance to get back at both the Russians and his enemies on the police force. (You see, along the way we learn he's an ex-cop...)

The story may sound convoluted but it's actually laid out very well and is fairly easy to follow. Statham and Chan are both excellent, conveying a great deal without dialogue. The action sequences are superb, particularly Statham's first big fight sequence rescuing Mei from the Russian mobsters on a subway. I was a bit surprised that he not only beat them up, he then shot them without hesitation -- but hey, they killed his wife and were going to murder a 12-year-old so...

As gangland warfare erupts, with Luke and Mei at the center of it, naturally there are more fight sequences; I think my favorite moment may have been Statham tossing a plate at someone like a Frisbee. It was also quite amusing when he suddenly revealed he speaks fluent Russian.

The film has good supporting characters played by Robert John Burke, Chris Sarandon, and Anson Mount, but it's Statham's film all the way, a terrific, charismatic actor who brings an impressive physicality to his roles.

SAFE was filmed by Stefan Czapsky on location in New York and Pennsylvania. The movie runs a well-paced 94 minutes; in this era of bloated running times, it's an unexpected pleasure these days to run into a "new" movie which wraps up a story in roughly an hour and a half.

Regular readers know I watch films of this type fairly infrequently, but every so often it's fun to mix one in amidst classic era and family films -- and this one is quite good.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R. The body count must number in the hundreds (!), but for the most part it's not particularly bloody or disturbing. There is some foul language, but it didn't seem overdone compared to a few other movies I've seen. On the plus side, the lead characters have positive attributes including loyalty and bravery; that said, despite the young heroine, this is not a movie for children.

SAFE is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be streamed via Amazon.

Previous reviews of Jason Statham films: THE BANK JOB (2008), FURIOUS 7 (2015), THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017), and THE MEG (2018).


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Thanks for that recommendation. I love action movies but most of the ones from this century are overdone CGI spectacles which always bore me. Statham is one of the few action stars nowadays I can take seriously. I like his Transporter movies, especially the first two.

9:22 AM  

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