‘Safe’ proves Statham’s ability

“Die Hard” turned Bruce Willis into a bona fide star, and “Transporter” made Statham the go-to action brute.

Statham deserves more. He deserves his “Die Hard,” because he’s actually a pretty decent actor. “Safe” is proof of that.

Statham plays Luke Wright, a human wrecking ball. Wright is a cage fighter who is tasked with throwing his latest match. When Wright doesn’t, the Russian mafia steps in as the aggressors who tear Wright’s life apart and throw him to the streets. Inter-spliced with his story is that of a 12-year-old Chinese girl, Mei, who has a special mental gift. When Wright and Mei come together they become an unlikely duo in this surprisingly good, nonstop action film.

What works in “Safe” works really well, but what doesn’t is illuminated by poor filmmaking. The action is some of the best I’ve seen in recent years. If you blink you might miss Statham taking out four guys, it’s that quick. While this often troubles directors who take speed too far, Boaz Takin, director of “Safe,” makes it work. I never questioned stylistic choices that Takin made when making his action spectacle.

As Takin increases the body count second by second, the film never loses its edge. Each time Statham takes out a criminal it’s new and exciting. Often it’s with a gun, but Statham also plays “Clue” and uses ordinary items to take down the bad guy.

The real question throughout the film is, who is the bad guy? It’s a question that is never fully answered in my opinion but plot be ignored, similar to Statham’s theatrical film, “The Expendables 2,” this is down-and-dirty, action filmmaking at its finest. With the Russian mafia, Chinese Triad, and corrupt cops, Statham is never short of gangs of heavily armed men chasing him. The plot gets convoluted and the motivations of characters might be mixed or hard to follow, but when you can just appreciate the stakes then it’s too much fun to care.

The real reason the film works so well is because of Statham’s presence. Statham’s believable as a down-and-out bum. When he turns, however, and becomes a more lethal Bond, then he comes into his own and brings with him wit, charisma and heart. His delivery of witticisms is spot-on, and as an audience you will legitimately believe he cares for Mei.

“Safe” is a thrill-a-minute, maybe even a second, action blockbuster that deserved more respect in theaters. I won’t take Statham for granted any more and hope he gets his big shot to prove he’s got serious talent. Until then, order a pizza and fall deep into the couch for a DVD/Blu-Ray release worth a view.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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