Innovative direction and Jason Statham at his ferocious best saves Safe from becoming an action thriller of the conventional variety.
Statham has reached that part in his career where it is easy to coast on his muscle bound laurels. It’s happened to the best action stars: Stallone had his Cobra’s, Schwarzenegger had his Raw Deal’s, and Willis shot himself in the foot repeatedly with stinkers like Striking Distance.
Not to say Statham hasn’t had his clunkers, but more often than not he will surprise with a good action movie that reminds why he is the premiere tough man action hero working today, and it’s all thanks to working with good directors.
Case in point is Safe, an action-thriller of the “high octane” variety that stars Statham as Luke Wright, an ex-cage fighter haunted by a dark past who finds a reason to live in Mei (Catherine Chan), an orphaned math prodigy with a priceless code in her head that the Triads, Russian mob and a corrupt police force are all trying to claim for their own. Luke takes it upon himself to protect Mei with punches, kicks, bullets, forks and whatever else he can get his hands on.
The writer/director of Safe is Boaz Yakin. He first made his bones in the film industry by writing scripts for The Punisher and The Rookie (Yakin would go on to direct lauded non-action films Fresh and Remember the Titans) and it is evident that dialogue is not a strong suit, with Safe filled with the usual tacky diatribes and bad puns which seem to sprout in action movie more than any other.
What Yakin does do well is mess with action conventions, with genre fans sure to be surprised as the usual story arcs and caricatures are twisted and turned upside down to make for interesting viewing. It’s not quite meta filmmaking, but it’s close enough.
Good to is Yakin’s handling of that more recent action standard, the shaky cam. Ever since the Bourne films directors have used shaky cam to varied success. Yakin not only succeeds in the use of it, he also adds new dimensions that draws us further into the action and sells the ferocity of his action sequences.
Not only does Safe feature bone crunching, nut busting, gun popping action as dispensed by one of the genre’s great practitioners, but it does so with fresh energy and creativity that is enough to distract from its more stale elements.