After being captured by the Chinese mafia and made to memorise a top secret sequence of numbers, genius schoolgirl Mei (Catherine Chan) is drawn into the epicentre of an escalating conflict between corrupt New York cops, rival crime gangs and one man army, and self-assigned child minder, Luke Wright (Jason Statham), as they go after the number in her head. The number, it is explained, can’t be passed along by computer as it would be too easily traced. What’s not explained, however, is why a Post-It note would not have sufficed.
Jason Statham has stepped effortlessly into the roles that Bruce Willis is now too old for, and his hard-as-nails cop turned corrupt boxer will sound familiar to fans of Willis’ work in Die Hard and Pulp Fiction. Safe is pretty much like a humourless Die Hard With A Vengeance, going so far as to include an almost identical “wrong side of the road” car chase down busy New York streets, and an “on top of the subway” action sequence.
The action is altogether well done, with plenty of bone crunching, shooting and a couple of creative deaths with suitably corny kiss-off lines, as well as a very nifty car crash shootout. But once the premise is established, the plot can be fairly easily mapped out, perhaps due to a lack of ambition from the filmmakers.
Statham puts in a convincing New York accent and displays his full acting range, from no-nonsense tough guy, to no-nonsense tough guy running, punching, kicking and growling. He appears to have it written into his contract that he has to punch someone in the face at least once every 60 seconds, as his character goes to the very limits of what a good guy can get away with in a film without crossing the line to antihero.
Unfortunately, newcomer Catherine Chan, while not as bad as some child actors (Jake Lloyd, we’re looking at you), is incapable of portraying fear, which given the number of people bludgeoned and shot in front of her is quite the stumbling block, and makes her appear more of a prop than a character. Of all the Chinese girls in the world, it’s remarkable that they couldn’t find one capable of looking scared.
The problem with Safe is that it is just that: safe. The action is good and it can’t be faulted for its entertainment value, but it also takes no risks which, unfortunately, leaves it in the ever-growing pile of generic, unmemorable action flicks – albeit somewhere near the top.