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Jason Statham
Catherine Chan
Chris Sarandon.
Boaz Yakin.
Boaz Yakin.
Running Time
94 minutes

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Don't tell mom, the babysitter's Statham

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Mei (Chan), a ten year-old Chinese maths genius, is brought to New York by Triads. After she has memorised a number code, Mei is abducted by Russian mobsters, but escapes. Luke Wright (Statham), a down-and-out city man, sees the girl being chased and intervenes, ultimately setting him against the Triads, the Russians, crooked cops and the Mayor.

Despite a hit-and-miss filmography which balances every Crank with a Killer Elite, Jason Statham is the best tough-guy male lead currently at the top of his game. Here, he gets a terrific showcase in the gritty, cynical, laconic style of the Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin or Clint Eastwood vehicles of the 1970s.

An agile hardman in fight, chase and stunt scenes (note his unconventional way of getting on and off subway trains), Statham flexes acting muscles as his burnout character comes to life and finds greater purpose in a) protecting a small child and b) taking down three whole factions of New York bad guys in one night.

A confident prologue hops back and forth in time, doling out story snippets which set grown-up hero and child heroine on an unstoppable collision course. Here, Statham’s Luke Wright is established as a former garbage collector/cage fighter who has failed to throw a fight and is cursed by Russian hoods. They murder his wife but leave him alive with the promise to kill anyone he makes friends with — even the bum in a homeless shelter to whom he gives a pair of shoes. Meanwhile, Mei, a young numbers whizz with a photographic memory, is enslaved to a Triad boss (veteran James Hong) — who hates computers and electronic data trails — and learns how to survive in a ruthless business.

Once the duo get together — working up a not-cute bond which adds a touch of humour to the grittiness — the film takes place over a long, busy night. Writer-director Boaz Yakin, who’s been making respectable stuff lately (Remember The Titans) but started with offbeat little pictures (Fresh), can stage a shoot-out or a punch-up with the best of them. He constantly ups the stakes, pitting our hero against don’t-give-a-hoot baddies who smugly mow down innocents because they mistakenly think they’re untouchable — not realising until halfway through that the ‘garbage collector’ gig on Luke’s CV is a euphemism for what he really did for the city. Unashamed of its old-school roots, it has an up-to-the-moment feel, exemplified by Mark Mothersbaugh’s exciting score — which evokes the pulse-pounding chords of vintage Lalo Schifrin or Jerry Goldsmith without imitating them.

A rough, exhausting, exhilarating action picture with a payoff which would have delighted Sam Fuller or Howard Hawks. The Stath — an actual Olympian, remember — is on top form.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Safe
Empire Star Rating

RE: Great Fun

Safe (2012) about double cross, intrigue and back stabbing, this film has it all and you never know who the hell's gonna get it next. Statham is back, well he never left but he's back on his own killing everybody in his path whilst being rather nifty with a gun. Like Seagal, Statham is pretty much always cast as either a cop, elite cop, military special forces, ex-cop or ex-military special forces, the same role every time. Now this isn't a huge issue but the attract... More

Posted by Phubbs at 19:22, 09 September 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Safe Review

As above. It was really very good & Statham is on top form throughout. It's a decent enough story, the director has done a solid job and I really enjoyed the performance of Reggie Lee as one of the main bad dudes. 4/5 ... More

Posted by Lucky Day at 21:06, 08 May 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Safe Review

Really enjoyed this film - no great surprises, but a solid well made action movie. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 20:37, 08 May 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Let's get real here.

In Hong Kong, young Mei, who has a special gift for remembering numbers, is taken from her mother’s care by gangsters who want to use her talent, and taken to New York, where the local Triad leader uses her to help keep him in control of much of the city. Wondering around the city is Luke Wright is a homeless guy who was once a cage fighter, but he blew a rigged fight, causing the Russian mafia to murder his wife. Mei is asked to remember a special, extra-long number, but is snatched from th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 11:00, 07 May 2012 | Report This Post

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