HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, James Hong
Directed by: Boaz Yakin
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Runtime: 94 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 4th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:80
I’ve been a Jason Statham fan ever since I was a teenager watching him in “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” and its sequel-in-spirit “Snatch.” He then launched himself as an action star into American cinema by creating a big name for himself with titles such as “The Transporter” and “The One” (costarring Jet Li). Unfortunately, for fans like myself, he’s made some lackluster choices in the last few years like “Killer Elite” and “The Mechanic,” where he played very good characters in otherwise disjointed scripts. I didn't have high hopes for “Safe” after seeing its very poorly marketed and generic-looking trailer in theaters. Fortunately, “Safe” is a bit more of a return to Statham’s hay day where guns, quick one-liners, and a plethora of hand-to-hand combat scenes brought in the fans.
The film begins by introducing to Mei (Catherine Chan), who is discovered to be a math genius - she can see and memorize incredible amounts of ciphers and is able to recite them back at will. Now, the Chinese Triad (mafia) group see just what an asset a girl of her talents could be in their business, and she is pulled into the gangster world against her will in order to keep her sick mother alive. Soon she’s keeping track of every single criminal business enterprise of one Triad member, Han (James Hong), keeping lists of profits, losses and other such things in her head, thereby able to keep that data safe, out of computers, so no one can find it. Mei is given a VERY long list of numbers to memorize, and is sent on a mission with her caretaker to go and exchange that list of numbers for another list of numbers. On the way, she’s kidnapped by Russian mobsters, and she escapes in the confusion.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9216[/img]Meanwhile, Luke Wright (Jason Statham) is being chewed out for not losing a cage fight like he should have. Not only has he lost money for the fight manager, but he’s lost a lot of money for one of the city’s biggest Russian mafia kingpins. As a result, he’s handed over to the Russians who kill his wife while leaving him alive with the stipulation that they are going to keep an eye on him and kill, or torture, ANYONE that he has any sort or relationship with, a sense a living torture for him. Slipping away as a vagrant, Luke tries to keep himself away from anyone that might be hurt as result of his Russian "friends," only to be picked up by a cop. Turns out this cop knows Luke. Luke, apparently, once belonged to New York’s Finest, but was shunned by the police force after he ratted out a corrupt special tasks group with which he worked. After being roughed up by his former partners, Luke really seems to not have much to live for; going down to the subway, he contemplates jumping in front of the train, but decides not to when he sees Mei being followed by the same Russian mobsters that destroyed his life. Engaging the Russian mobsters, Luke helps Mei escape and finds out that the string of numbers she’s carrying is a code to a safe. From there Luke becomes her guardian, pitting the Russian Mob, the Chinese Triads and a corrupt police force against each other in a mad dash to find out what’s in the safe and gain back his life.
Now “Safe" isn't going to win Best Picture at the Oscar's, but for a big dumb action movie, it’s not as dumb as it seems. Boaz Yakin decides to hold some of the plot line’s cards a little closer to the vest than your average action film. Sub plots are introduces that are clichéd and taken from the action movie playbook, but he keeps it alive by not letting the audience know ALL the information right up front. Also, the stunt choreography did a great job at making some very unique fights, and some rather unique deaths, for that matter. There was a good amount of shaky cam, but it wasn't as disjointed and distracting as some movies I've seen. The fight scenes weren't cut from here to blazes and back so you couldn't see ANY action, but rather just enough that you could see Statham beating in a few heads instead of “guessing” that an action scene was going on by the chaos of the camera spinning constantly with 12 million scene cuts per second. While there’s plenty of cheesy clichés and sarcastic one-liners, the movie is cohesive and doesn't take the audience for COMPLETE idiots, even letting them follow along with the story as well as the action. Overall, a great action flick that left a smile on my face.
Rated R for strong violence throughout, and for language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9215[/img]“Safe” is given to us with an excellent 2.39:1 AVC encoded by Lionsgate. Color delineation is nice, though they kind of a have a dark coat to them; however, since the movie takes place mostly at night or in crowded restaurants and subways, it's understandable. Sunlight scenes are bright and clean where the reds and blues dominate the screen. There is a fine layer of grain that covers the whole film, but it looks very natural is never distracting. Facial detail in incredible - you can see every strand of hair on Mei’s face and every crevice of Jason Statham’s rough and craggy visage. Blacks are deep and inky with very little evidence of black crush. Shadows are rich and thick, but still don’t block the image on screen with a dark mass. The only real complaint that I had with the picture is that some of the detail in the background wasn't as focused as I’d like it to be. Other than that, it was a gorgeous transfer, very film-like with almost no evidence of digital tampering.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9214[/img]The audio was almost as good as the picture, with dialogue centered very firmly in the front speakers; the only time I couldn't hear an actor came when half of the actors on screen were either speaking with thick Russian accents or in Chinese. I have to say, the dynamic range on track was incredible. Low voice came in quiet, but understandable, while explosions and gunshots during the action scenes thunder around you like you’re actually IN a gun battle. That being said, the Russian accents had me raising and lowering the volume at times just because it’s kind of hard to understand what a villain is saying when it’s obscured by a thick accent (although that’s not really a fault of the audio track). Bass wasn't as prevalent as I’d thought it would be in an action film, however, when it did come into play, it was clean and deep, more “accenting” a scene or present in the score rather than creating unrealistically deep gunshots and explosions. The score was rather disappointing, in my opinion. It sounded VERY generic and could have been swiped from one of a million DTV action films. Other than that, a very pleasing track that is sure to not disappoint.
• Writer/Director Commentary
• Cracking "Safe"
• Criminal Battleground
• The Art of the Gunfight
I was a bit nervous going into “Safe,” being that I skipped the theatrical release due to a weak and generic-looking trailer. For the last several years, Jason Statham has been out of the over-the top-action flicks that made his career and has been putting out some rather mediocre films (Killer Elite, The Mechanic, Blitz etc). However, I was VERY pleasantly surprised after watching this one. Back are the slick one-liners and the martial arts scenes, along a healthy dose of guns and glory that I've missed for so long. Not once was I looking at the clock waiting for it to be over. First the “Expendables 2,” and now this - I’m very excited to see what Jason Statham will be putting out in the next few years. Check your brain (or at least most of it) at the door, grab some popcorn, and have fun watching one of Britain’s action stars explode over the silver screen once more.
Recommendation: Watch It!