DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
SAFE (director/writer: Boaz Yakin; cinematographer: Stefan Czapsky; editor: Frédéric Thoraval; music: Mark Mothersbaugh; cast: Jason Statham (Luke Wright), Catherine Chan (Mei), Robert John (Captain Wolf Burke), Anson Mount (Alex Rosen), James Hong (Han Jiao), Chris Sarandon (Mayor Tremello), Sándor Técsy (Emile Docheski), Reggie Lee (Quan Chang); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Lawrence Bender; Lionsgate; 2012)

"Well-executed dreck."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Well-executed dreck. A disposable formulaic mainstream action picture directed by Boaz Yakin ("Remember the Titans"/"A Price Above Rubies") in an undemanding and predictable way, as it goes out of its way to give the lazy fan of this genre what it wants and deserves. The car chases, plot development over mob control, shoot-out scenes and set action pieces ring of familiarity. It all seems cartoonish and not credible for even a NYC sec. The cynical pic has an elite police unit and the mayor portrayed as being corrupt, and they're perceived as just as venal as the Russian and Chinese mob. Thankfully the pic has in it Jason Statham, the British Olympic-diver-turned-actor, as he's the most appealing action hero working today and takes us on this Hollywood thriller ride by showing us how many baddies he can kill and how coolly he can do it. If you like this sort of mindless entertainment when it's so well produced, you've got it full-blast here.

In rural China adolescent math prodigy Mei (Catherine Chan) is kidnapped by the ruthless Chinese mafia headed by Han (James Hong). Her value to the gang is that she has a photographic memory. pitiless gang operator Chang (Reggie Lee) adopts her and takes her to NYC's Chinatown to work for the mob as someone who keeps the books in her head and thereby computer trails can't be traced. Mei's father abandoned the family, but she's close to mom. The mob threatens to harm her mom if she disobeys them. After a year in NYC, Mei memorizes a code that can open a safe to millions of dollars from an underground gambling cartel and is thereby valuable to the Chinese gang, the Brooklyn Russian gang headed by Emile (Sándor Técsy) and the corrupt mayor (Chris Sarandon). They all know the 11-year-old Mei must be captured or killed because she knows too much, after she flees from the sinister Uncle Han. When she escapes word gets out to the corrupt cops, headed by the sinister Captain Burke (Robert John), and to the Russian mob. But she's rescued by Luke Wright (Jason Statham), a former bad-ass supercop who worked in Burke's black ops anti-terrorist squad until he became a whistle-blower and resigned to become a mixed-martial-arts fighter. When Luke's wife is murdered by the Russian mafia after he won’t throw a fight, the sad-sack becomes a homeless bum without a thing to live for, as the Russian mob tails him and executes anyone who makes contact with him. But things look up for Luke when he meets the innocent Mei on a subway car in Brooklyn while she's being snatched by the Russian mob and vows to do everything he can to protect her. This means Luke becomes a one-man killing machine and the bodies pile up in Chinatown, Brighton Beach and mid-town Manhattan.

Too bad the talented Mr. Statham keeps appearing in such meaningless crappy films, especially when it seems he's capable of acting in films with greater depth.

REVIEWED ON 4/28/2012       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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