Review of Safe

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A second-rate cage fighter on the mixed martial arts circuit, Luke Wright lives a numbing life of routine beatings and chump change...until the day he blows a rigged fight. Wanting to make an example of him, the Russian Mafia murders his family and banishes him from his life forever, leaving Luke to wander the streets of New York destitute, haunted by guilt, and tormented by the knowledge that he will always be watched, and anyone he develops a relationship with will also be killed.
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Movie Review: "Safe" --

Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Directed by: Boaz Yakin
Genre: Action, Crime and Thriller
Rating: 3 out of 5 starts

"Safe" is an action film that follows a little girl and a fading cop as they flee from a pursuing mob. Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan and Chris Sarandon, the movie makes no departure from the traditional action film structure but provides a touching, entertaining experience.

In "Safe," Jason Statham plays Luke, a deadbeat former policeman who loses his wife to mobsters from Russia. Homeless, broke and alone, Luke is considering ending it all when he encounters a little girl named Mei (Catherine Chan) who needs his help. The child, who was brought to New York from China, is being forced to use her superior intellect to plan an illicit gambling network. She is under control of the mafia and is pursued by a range of criminals, from cops gone bad to members of a Russian mob.

Mei's plight spurs Luke into action and lifts him out of his near-fatal funk. Together, the unlikely pair make their way through the city in a race for the girl's life. Her computer-like mind retains a great deal of information, giving her the power to assist in their struggle for freedom.

Statham plays his usual character in "Safe," dishing out one-liners and punches with equal fervor. He is believable in the role and makes a considerable effort to humanize his character beyond the traditional action hero role. In fact, a good portion of the movie is dedicated to developing the story and building Luke's back story. Viewers see his heartbreaking history and his present state of decline before the movie launches into its true action sequences. Although the strategy is not subtle, it makes Luke's transition to child protector all the more dramatic and the character more likeable.

Catherine Chan shines as Mei. Though her character is largely silent-she has been transported from China and is not fluent in English-Chan manages to communicate a remarkable range of emotion and depth. Her terror feels real, and viewers will find themselves watching closely to see what emotions and thoughts she conveys with her subtle facial expressions. For one so young, Chan demonstrates a remarkable mastery of her craft, leaving audiences wanting more. The chemistry between Chan and Statham strikes exactly the right balance, creating a sweet, believable relationship. In many ways, the little girl has a more powerful screen presence than her protector. The final sequence, however, gives Mei the chance to let her superior intellect loose, and audiences will delight to see her take control and triumph over those that would harm her.

Throughout the film, the contrast between Mei's silence and Luke's snappy personality creates an enjoyable anticipation. The two are opposites in every way, making "Safe" both visually and intellectually enjoyable. The girl's presence softens Luke's hardened persona, giving them both a healthy dose of humanity and relatability. When it comes to plot, however, "Safe" doesn't stray from the tried-and-true path. Viewers who came to see high-speed sequences will not be disappointed, but they shouldn't expect anything particularly creative or surprising. Statham delivers a characteristically reliable action-hero performance, sending off punches and roundhouses with admirable control. He is the consummate action star, combining just the right level of ruthlessness and emotional depth to appeal to a wide audience base.

Director and writer Boaz Yakin brings a sense of crisp, clean urgency to the film. The camera work during the action scenes is just shaky enough to convey the drama of the moment but not so wobbly as to detract from the actors. During the more emotional scenes between Mei and Luke, Yakin adopts a still, careful style that highlights the precarious position of both characters and reminds audiences of everything they have to lose. Although the script does not live up to its potential, Yakin, who directed "Remember the Titans," shows considerable restraint and an admirable attention to detail. His direction does not get in the way of the plot or the actors but supports them and presents them at their best.

The villains in "Safe" are predictable to the point that they are almost disposable characters-and, in many cases, they are. As the film progresses, viewers are likely to lose count of the dead men that fall at the hands of Statham's determined character. Although character development is limited for most of the supporting cast, there is no sense of loss.

Overall, "Safe" is an enjoyable movie that is easy to watch. The action scenes are exciting, and the movie provides more than enough high-speed adventure for even the most fervent action aficionado.