Lately my blog has been devoted to, for the most part, art house fare: documentaries, independent movies, revivals and foreign films. This past Saturday I decided that it was time for me to return to the multiplex. I wanted to get back in touch with mainstream movie going. What I found had me running for the nearest art house. Literally. After seeing the new movie “Safe,” at the AMC Kips Bay multiplex (570 2nd Ave.), I went right down to the Quad (34 W. 13 St.) to hopefully find something to wash the metaphorical bad taste out of my mouth. Unfortunately I arrived in between movie show times.
“Safe” stars Jason Statham, an actor who has made many action films, most notably the “Transporter” series. In “Safe” Statham plays Luke Wright an ex cop, and ex cage fighter, who has to protect a young Chinese girl, Mei (Catherine Chan). Mei, is on the run from various gangsters due to her amazing ability at memorizing numbers. These are Asian and Russian gangsters. The gangsters want to find some money and along the way corrupt New York City cops also become involved. It is the same old story and really convoluted.
“Safe” has an incredible amount of gratuitous violence. The violence is so over done that it gets in the way of the story, or what little there is of it. There are lots of gun fights, blood, karate chops, and flying fists. All of the above are aided by quick cuts, crashing sound effects, and, when things calm down a bit, a ton of blatantly expository dialogue, which, amazingly, accomplishes very little in keeping the story line straight.
I do not mean to sound like I am against movie violence, but much of the violence in “Safe” takes place in front of Mei, a 12-year old girl. I understand that this is fiction, but it soon became disturbing to me that the “Safe” filmmakers thought it entertaining to depict a child witnessing multiple killings, being caught in the middle of several gun battles, nearly being executed herself and then, at one point, becoming violent. It would be one thing if the story was significant enough to warrant these types of situations, but the only things these actions accomplished was to take me out of the story.
Statham and his young co-star display absolutely no chemistry with each other, something which should have been a key consideration in performance and story telling. Otherwise why should we care? “Safe” actually plays like a very weak retread of Luc Bresson’s “Leon: The Professional” (1994), which starred a then approximately 13-year-old Natalie Portman. It too was a film about a young girl running from bad guys who falls under the protection of a man of action. I recall the film as being somewhat over the top in terms of its violence, but at least there it had an emotional connection between Portman and co-star Jean Reno.
As far as the acting in “Safe,” there is plenty of it that is bad. Co-star Chan was OK, but honestly, I think my living room couch have given a more compelling performance than the perennially stone faced Statham.
The most impressive thing about “Safe” was its use of many Manhattan locations. It is always nice to see a movie that was shot here…and in this context the word “shot” takes on a whole new meaning!
“Safe,” director Boaz Yakin, 2012,
Lionsgate, 94 minutes, rated R