By Dominic Antill

Jason Statham is one of those film stars that you could imagine is exactly the same person on and off set. The lines blur between reality and fantasy because Jason Statham only ever plays Jason Statham.

Perhaps all the director has to do (in this case Boaz Yakin) is slip Statham a gun with blanks and film him as he goes to collect his groceries, wash his car, brush his teeth etc, as invariably he will be called into action at some point.

So the premise of Safe may not be of any great surprise – Statham (a.k.a Luke Wright) does what he normally does, annihilate anything that moves.  This time he is wandering around aimlessly, considering suicide, after getting into trouble with the Russian mafia for not taking a dive in a cage fight. They kill his wife in retribution, providing the initial revenge plot.

All the while Mei (Catherine Chan) is being used for her special talent with numbers by the Triads. They smuggle her over to New York essentially to use her as a human calculator. This side of the film bodes well (within the realms of action move plausibility) and the opening scenes came as a surprise in terms of establishing a potentially intriguing plot, but that slick movement flags very quickly.

The background to Statham’s character is a little muddled and this reverberates throughout the film. Introduced as a cage fighter, according to some rather poor research by the Russian mob you are led to believe he used to be a garbage collector.

This you can only assume is purely so that Statham can deliver this one particular line: “you got your information wrong, I’m not a garbage collector, I’m a garbage disposer,” before duly disposing of one of the Russians that killed his wife.

When members of the NYPD bump into him it turns out that he actually used to be an ‘honest’ cop and isn’t very popular for it, because in the world of Statham, everybody is corrupt.

Not just any cop mind, the Mayor of New York then reveals that Statham used to be a special ops agent unbeknown to everyone which adds a layer of ridiculousness that really need not be there.  

Trying to follow Statham’s multiple personas (whoever he plays it is just Statham) is one issue, the story takes it up a notch at break-neck speed. Statham finds himself sandwiched between the Russian mafia, the Chinese Triads, the NYPD and the Mayor.

Statham finds Mei running for her life in the tube after the Russians nab her from the Triads and this stirs some sort of intrinsic compulsion to save her from literally everybody. 

They are all vying for a sequence of numbers Mei can recite because it is a code to a safe, obviously.

The issue with pitting Statham against everybody is that there are a lot of loose ends that don’t really resolve themselves in any satisfying conclusion. It feels like Yakin had one trail of thought but didn’t know how to fit it into a Statham movie.

His name guarantees high octane violence and it’s fair to say there are large doses of that here, but even the violence is somewhat marred by blink and you’ll miss it fight scenes.

The punches sound like they hurt and there are enough bullets flying around to let you know that Statham is inflicting some sort of pain on others but it often descends into chaos before you have acknowledged who’s punching who.

Likewise because of the films multiple story angles it is difficult to say whether it is playing it safe and just trying to be prop up the violence or trying to broaden the world of Statham with clever but undeveloped plot directions.

It’s certainly more adventurous than some of Statham’s earlier material, but putting Statham in a gritty, “real(‘er than usual) life” situation falls short in the substance department, which he isn’t normally attributed with.

Statham himself has made some sort of effort; he can nearly pull off an American accent and has taught himself Russian it seems while he was at it.

With ten more minutes of plot development it might have made all the difference here. If not take most of it away because all Safe does is leave you wanting something more than what Statham has to offer.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.