Jason Statham movies have provided hours of mindless, occasionally delightful entertainment to millions. His new outing, “Safe,” is a forgettable item on his vita.
There is some good action in it. Mr. Statham is as likable as ever. And the movie isn’t any more nonsensical than have been some of his earlier films.
Remember, this is the star of “Crank” and, after a heart transplant, “Crank High Voltage.”
Statham followers are prepared for his movies to include certain fantastic elements. But in the “Crank” movies the fantastic leads to our spending the movie with Amy Smart topless and Dwight Yoakam hatless.
In “Safe” we only get Chris Sarandon with hair gel and his TV cops and blocks of characters arranged according to ethnicity—Russian Mafia and Chinese Mafia.
Besides, there is considerably more goofiness in “Safe” than in “Crank” (where the basic idea was that its lead character had to keep physically active or he would die).
Here the apparatus spends the first hour of the movie overcoming the story, choking it off, and is still confusing events in the last ten minutes.
The story proper is that Statham’s character Luke is an undercover hero. Brought in by the police commissioner to help fight organized crime, he and a bespectacled fellow got to offing murderers the courts couldn’t convict.
The commissioner somehow used their success as a basis for a successful campaign to be the new New York City mayor. He took the cheaters-wearer along with him as a aide. But Luke, overcome with guilt for having killed guys, became a bad professional mixed-martial-arts fighter. As the story opens, his wife is killed by gamblers he has disappointed by unintentionally winning a cage match.
Like Samson, Luke is suddenly full of power again. He saves a little Chinese girl from the mobs and their vacillating police allies, swipes a considerable amount of money—it seemed to me that it was sometimes $30 million, sometimes $50, and sometimes $80, and offers to trade peace for his promise not to release information that would associate the gangs with certain crimes, although this last is really, really murky.
The plot, then, should end essentially as “Superfly” did. But in “Superfly,” and in “Crank,” and in all the better Statham movies, the issue is clear at the end. Here one doesn’t understand what the information is on the computer diskette, the possession of which would make cops and gangsters throw themselves into a series of armed melees.
Besides, I haven’t described the complicated, vague, and irrational reasons that the little girl figures. Mei was kidnapped in China and brought to the U.S. to memorize numbers. Why? Twenty percent of the movie is given over to trying unsuccessfully to fake the audience into believing there is some good reason for Mei to be involved in mob business.
If you need a diversion of the sort you usually get from going to action pictures, this week you’d do better to go rent “The Bank Job,” a 2008 Statham movie without the fantasy element.
This is a good film. Moviegoers who see “Safe” and want to understand what’s wrong with it might want to immediately watch “Collateral,” Michael Mann’s 2004 movie with Jamie Foxx and little Tom Cruise. Compare the nightclub scenes in it to the ones in “Safe” and you’ll immediately see that even the action in the new film, which has to be considered one of its strengths, is not all that much speaking comparatively.
“Safe” isn’t a bad movie. But it isn’t good Statham. So why bother?