Jason Statham makes a lot of garbage. All of his films are pretty much the same, except for Crank. Crank is awesome. And that’s because it commits to its zaniness and energy. Besides Crank, and I guess, The Bank Job, which doesn’t even feel like a Jason Statham movie, everything else he’s done since his Guy Ritchie days is the exact same damn picture. Statham always plays a deceptively flexible tough guy who has to kick butt for the good of those who can’t. The problem is, Safe didn’t have to be that kind of picture. It starts off with a pretty great premise, but quickly devolves into your typical guns a-blazing, ass-kicking Statham flick. It’s sad, too. This could have been a winner.
The story involves an Asian girl with a photographic memory and a keen sense of remembering long strings of numbers. This puts her in a lot of danger, as seemingly everybody in New York wants her. Why? Because she’s memorized a lengthy code to a safe containing 30 million dollars. That’s a pretty cool plot.
Even cooler, though, is how well Statham handles his character, who has a secret past that gets more and more ludicrous the further the movie chugs along. In the first half hour, however, you really start to feel for Statham’s character. In a key scene--which may just be the best Statham has ever acted--you get a glimpse that he could be a damn good actor if he’d just get away from all these mindless kaboom movies. In this scene, he returns home to find somebody he loves murdered by the Russian mafia. Instead of swinging his arms and legs around and kicking everybody's butt, he gets down on his knees and tells the killers to shoot him as a single tear slides down his face. It's a pretty intense scene and shows a great deal of gravitas from an actor who never so much as made me believe that he even had tears in him in other films. In that way, I feel that Statham doesn't have to be such a macho actor to get ahead anymore. He could be the thinking man’s action hero, kind of like Matt Damon when he was making the Bourne movies. The guy can really act. Just watch him shed some tears.
But that’s early on in the film, and about forty minutes in, you get the sense that it’s not going to continue on that same path. The moment Statham begins roaming the city, beating the shit out of Russian mob members, Chinese gangsters, and corrupt cops, you know you’re just watching a slightly altered version of The Transporter 4. And by the time Statham first gets his hand on a gun, it all goes to hell. The movie you thought you were enjoying was just a sham.
Still, if you like that sort of thing, then you’ll probably like this movie. It has all the elements of the kind of dumb action movies that Statham has gravitated toward for years. There's a whole lot of hitting and punching, a car chase scene (definitely reminiscent of The Transporter), and guns being fired, but, unless you count the acting at the beginning, there’s nothing that will interest anybody who prefers real substance with their ratatat. Personally, I’ve grown sick of it. It’s getting old. This is your typical Statham picture, and nothing more than that. Come on, Statham, realize your potential!
The special features don’t do anything to help this picture. There’s a commentary on here from the writer/director, Boaz Yakin, and it’s interesting early on (much like the movie itself), as Yakin talks about how he was going for an impressionistic tone when making the film. Bu,t by the time Statham starts shooting things, the director rambles on about the actors and explosions. It’s not interesting in the slightest. I mean, how many times can you talk about your influences in the 70s and 80s action films? It gets old after the first time. I don’t need to hear it repeated four or five more times.
The rest of the special features are a bit of a joke. Cracking the Safe, , and The Art of the Gunfight seriously feel like the exact same special feature but with a different name. Here, in all three of them, the director and Jason Statham talk about what the film means to them on different levels and the director AGAIN talks about his influences in the older action movies that he tried to emulate in Safe. Look, I get it, the film attempts to harken back to the good old days when men were men and gunplay was visceral and exciting, but drawing attention to better films like The Seven-Ups and The French Connection isn’t helping in the slightest. If anything, it’s just making me want to pop this disc out and watch those movies instead. I love those films, and Safe is definitely not in the same league.
Still, the commentary, for what it’s worth early on, is worth a listen, especially if you like these kinds of mindless movies. But the other features aren’t worth the disc they’re printed on. Pass unless you loved the film.