Meanwhile, former cage fighter Luke Wright (Jason Statham, The Expendables 2) is on the brink of suicide after his wife was killed by the Russian mob when he didn’t throw a fight. He’s given purpose when he sees Mei being pursued by bad guys, and he steps in to save her. She’s wanted because of the combination to a safe with $30 million in cash tucked within the folds of her brain.
So not only are Triads and the Russians after them, but corrupt cops among New York’s finest. But, wait: A big, balding action star playing bodyguard to a lil’ numbers genius — wasn’t that more or less the plot of 1998’s Bruce Willis vehicle, Mercury Rising? Indeed, except that Safe is pretty good.
For one thing, the child angle doesn’t defang the thriller aspects — this is a lot like The Professional, not anything like The Pacifier. It’s packed with violent action that more than earns its R rating, from a subway-to-car chase and hotel siege to a restaurant shoot-out and raid on a nightclub. For another, Chan shares a lot less screen time than you’d expect; she disappears for a big chunk of the film to let the big boys play.
Plus, writer/director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) has a way of moving the camera so that when Luke throws a punch or a kick, we feel the pain of the unfortunate bastard on the other end of it. And that’s rarely the case with today’s too-glossy action films.
Like Statham’s underseen The Mechanic, Safe proudly boasts a layer of ’70s grit and grime — something that his more recent Killer Elite could’ve used. Safe is far better than that one, and far better than the theatrical reception it got, which seems to be the case for most of Statham’s work, sadly. The filmmakers state in a brief featurette on the Blu-ray that he is this generation’s Steve McQueen; I agree. —Rod Lott