Guilty pleasure action flick starring Jason Statham
You have to admire Jason Statham. An actor that knows his limitations but plays to his strengths, while you’re unlikely to ever find him starring as Hamlet, it’s hardly surprising he’s ascended the ranks of Hollywood’s tough guys with such ease. As this latest offering shows, Statham mixes the vulnerability of Bruce Willis and the moves of Jet Li, making him an almost comforting screen presence as he dispatches bad guys as if he were playing Grand Theft Auto.
Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, Safe is a guilty-pleasure film. You know you shouldn’t like it, for its casual racism, generic villains (Chinese Triads, Russian Mafia) and excessive body count, but you just can’t help yourself. Set in New York, Statham plays Luke Wright, an ex-cop-turned-cage-fighter, in debt to the Russians after he fails to take a dive. Suicidal – they bump his wife off, after all – Luke is about to jump in front of a train when he spies Chinese schoolgirl Mei (Catherine Chan) on the platform.
Also on the run from the Russians, not to mention her Chinese paymasters, it turns out that Mei has a brain that’d put most computers to shame. Locked in her head is the combination to a safe in a high-security casino containing $30 million. And so looking for redemption, Luke becomes her protector, playing the rival gangs, not to mention a bunch of corrupt NYPD, against each other, as they come looking for Mei.
Like the title suggests, there’s not much that’s daring about this formulaic fare – particularly from a one-time indie director whose debut was the beguiling 1994 film Fresh. But it boasts an unstoppable, adrenaline-fuelled energy – from street-level chase scenes to shoot outs in hotels, bars and restaurants. Coupled with Statham’s gruff machismo, it makes for a surprisingly satisfying slug-fest.
General release from Fri 4 May.