By: Addison Wylie
Jason Statham’s latest action vehicle is just that – safe. It’s an underwhelming, by-the-numbers romp that plays action cliché after action cliché as if it was reading off a grocery list.
However, writer/director Boaz Yakin can’t even come through on those common denominators. Safe wouldn’t even work as a guilty pleasure on DVD. It’s an awkward and annoying flub of a film for many reasons but mostly because it feels like we’re watching a movie that’s been made by an alien who has been brought up to understand that the epitome of action films that humans like are mediocre straight-to-video ventures where guns go off every two minutes.
I give Statham credit for trying his best with the material at hand. The role of Luke Wright has all the credentials for Statham but there are plenty of moments where the camera stays on Statham and forces the actor to truly emote. Of course, we get the “adrenaline fuelled/mad as hell” side of the actor but a scene where Luke discovers a horrific murder pinned on him, we see a saddening moment where the actor hits the right emotional note.
The emotion doesn’t let up as we see Luke be forced into a new life by a Russian mob and give up his successful lifestyle. It gets to a point where Luke is moments away from throwing himself in front on an oncoming subway but stops because he sees a young girl, Mei, looking at him (played by Catherine Chan).
But, the film goes from saddening to maddening once the story takes hold.
Luke finds out that the Russian mob that forced him to give up his old life are after this little girl as well as other parties. Being that he has nothing to live for and the sight of this little girl saved his life, Luke feels the need to stick with her and protect her.
The premise of protecting a child is something that isn’t new to the action department but it’s the job of the writer and director to give us a valid enough reason to want us to care (see Children of Men). Yakin almost gives us this desire to care by having a couple of gangs and a team of corrupt cops trying to track down Mei for not only what she holds but to also beat the other baddies to the punch.
All is lost though as each side begins to double cross upon more double crosses. Having characters with hidden, sneaky agendas is a good way to add intrigue but Yakin adds too many of these double crossings and turns intrigue into idiocracy.
With this silly story, one can hope that the action sequences are at least redeemable. They aren’t. In fact, their epically disappointing. Statham, who has shown in previous films that he’s a hand-held combat master, is resorted to carrying a gun and shooting most of his enemies dead. What’s entertaining about that? All the fights end the same.
This is a man who has beaten up enemies using simple devices such as clothes in other films. Why utilize the rough and tough action star in such a bland way? Especially, since the character of Luke is a professional fighter!
The fist fights that do happen end up getting botched by quick edits and chaotic cinematography. Maybe the editor and the cinematographer were anxious at seeing the sight of a properly used actor.
The main offence, however, is how forced the dialogue is. As soon as the credits rolled and Boaz Yakin’s name appeared, I thought the faults came from a foreign filmmaker trying to figure out how to make a buyable and seeable action flick while struggling with the English language.
After some research, I discovered that this isn’t Yakin’s first film. In fact, he’s directed a number of films including the much loved Remember the Titans. He’s also written a number of screenplays.
So, why does all the language sound unnecessarily expanded on? In a scene where Luke walks into an irritated New Yorker, what could’ve been summed up in a simple “watch where you’re going!” is now substituted by “Hey! I cannot believe you did that! This is New York city, buddy!”
Seeing that a simple exchange such as this is a difficult task for Yakin, maybe it just wasn’t his time to direct and write an action film like Safe. Though many claim all these Jason Statham movies are essentially the same idea, it takes a certain energy and confidence to helm one of these films. I have no doubt Yakin has the confidence but it’s invested in the wrong project. Better luck next time, Boaz.