SAFE. Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon. Directed by Boaz Yakin. 90 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong violence).
It’s a Jason Statham film. That is enough for film fans to know whether they want to see Safe or not. Statham, formerly a champion British Olympic diver, has made a name for himself for more than a decade as an action hero. Acting is not his forte but he is certainly a screen presence. He is strong (very strong in Safe with multi-martial arts), not exactly silent but pretty laconic, somewhat stolid in his approach to life but invigorated by what he sees as injustice and is not inhibited by scruples about a vigilante approach to life and death –generally, death – for the crooked and the corrupt.
And that is what happens here. Actually, there are two initial premises which are interesting though quite disturbing for an action thriller. On the one hand, there is a little Chinese girl who is ultra-gifted in memory and maths. She is taken to the US to be a human computer for a powerful Triad group. They are in conflict for power and money with a brutal Russian gang. And a crack squad of New York’s not so finest are in on the deals. When the Russians abduct the little girl (Catherine Chan is quite effective in the role), she is rescued by Statham.
The Statham sub-plot has tensions in it. In a fixed multi-martial arts fight that he wins instead of losing, the Russians lose money, kill his wife and leave him alive, threatening to kill anyone he gets close to. On the edge, he contemplates killing himself until he notices the little girl hiding on a subway platform. And…. off they go.
The Chinese want Mei back with the important numbers she has memorized for them. The Russians want her. The police want her. This leads to some massive shootouts in Manhattan. The body count is more than excessive, making the action more cartoonish than realistic and so runs the danger of seeming ridiculous.
But, that’s the Jason Statham action genre. This one is fast-paced, introduces a couple of feeling elements (and a tear or two in Statham’s eyes) and is designed to please the fans – which it will.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out May 10, 2012.