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A former elite agent (Statham) takes on a two-tier mission: rescue a Chinese girl who has been abducted by the Triads, then use a highly desired safe combination to outwit the Russian Mafia, corrupt NYC officials, and the Triads themselves. Written by
Ironically, the most frustrating aspect of "Safe" is reading the streaming subtitles for Russian and Chinese. Being that I speak neither I'm straining to absorb the detailed dialogue and narrative threads. Yes, Director and Writer Boaz Yakin's story is far from complex, but you forget that the words really don't matter here. Jason Statham is the badass with a big heart protecting a young Chinese girl prodigy played by Catherine Chan from the Russian mob and the Triad, because she memorized a series of numbers that accesses dire information. Much of "Safe" is sheer brute force. Statham's signature strike to the bad guy's trachea punctuates this. Statham's fighting sequences are high impact and resonate with awesome speed and power.
Curiously, many critics slam Statham and Yakin for doing formulae and not stretching Statham's range. This is craftsman-like formulae. Statham delivers the action we want to see on screen. The fight scenes in the Russian and Triad clubs are amazing. I particularly loved the scene where Statham's Luke meets Chan's Mei in the New York subway. Statham viciously disposes the Russian thugs after Mei with hooks, kicks, throws, and joint shattering locks. He is the best martial arts action star right now. He always offsets his physical elegance and power with a gruff austere visage. I think he actually displays more of his humanity than in other movies. He tears as he surrenders himself to the men who murdered his wife and child. What makes "Safe" work is Statham and Chan's gentle bond.
Chan is more than just the cute kid in peril. She makes Mei even smarter than she lets on. She is the math genius forced to memorize a series of numbers. In a quiet scene Mei tells Luke, "They are not random." Luke gets, "They're a code." Don't under estimate the enrollment of Statham as protector of Chan. Chan's Mei confesses to Luke, "I don't need another father. I need a friend." I loved when Luke tells Mei that she will be safe "until my dying day".
When we meet Luke (Statham) in the present and through a series of flashbacks, he appears as a second rate cage fighter, now homeless. He mistakenly floors a YouTube sensation (nice touch by Yakin) in a fight, and puts him in the hospital. The Russian mob kills his wife and unborn child, because he did not throw the match. A lot does not add up. Luke is a world class fighter. There is more to his pathology that the script should have shaded. It turns out Luke was one of the toughest cops in the city, who had honor in a corrupt police force. More so his relationship with evil Chris Sarandon as Mayor Tremello hints at Luke's darker origins as Black Ops assassin. Luke's former partner now enemy Alex (charismatic Anson Mount) is the sellout who still works for the Mayor. Mei (Chan) is the innocent math prodigy brought over to the States to work for the Triads. Leader Han (paternally evil James Hong) has Mei memorize vital numbers, not trusting computers and the like.
At his lowest point Luke sees Mei in the subway and from his point of view Luke sees that she saves his life. He also realizes that Mei is being chased by members of the Russian mob that he knows all too well. Yakin is clumsy here in the narrative synchronicity. I buy it, because I want to see Statham kick some ass. Really, I was in with the touching chemistry of Statham and Chan. They have an understated love for each other. Mei, who is beholding to Luke, confesses, "We save each other "
In the great showdown of good and powerful evil, I initially thought I was short changed. Then I realized heroes generate other heroes. There are many goofy things going on with "Safe" and they are forgiven. "Safe" gets that the hero always protects the one he or she loves. I really liked "Safe".
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