Saturday, 5 May 2012



What's the smartest thing to do when you're Jason Statham, cagefighter extraordinaire, and an infinite number of Russian gangsters have promised to make your life an endless hell by killing everyone you ever get slightly close to? What would YOU do? Personally I'd have joined the US Army, because no way are even the dumbest Russian mafiosi going to start popping those guys off. (Remember, you're Jason Statham: it's not like you're going to fail the medical or have any ethical problems firing guns at people.) Second choice: get on the first bus to Kansas or Canada or Ipswich: anywhere out of the reach of the New York crime syndicates. Way down the list of sensible options would be to spend the next year hanging around the city as a self-pitying homeless derelict in a woolly hat.

But that's what Statham decides on in Boaz Yakin's Safe, and it's a good job he does because, on the point of diving beneath a subway train [incidentally not a good idea, because it can traumatise the innocent driver, and some poor sod on minimum wage has to clean up your liquefied mess with a mop and bucket], he sees a young girl being pursued by those same Russian hoods. She's a eleven-year-old maths genius working for the Chinese triads; she's memorised a vitally important string of numbers and the Russians want it. So do an elite team of corrupt NYPD officers, so does the equally corrupt Mayor. All she has on her side is Statham's newly-awakened humanity....

It's enjoyable enough, with supporting appearances from James Hong, Robert John Burke and Chris Sarandon, and a score by Mark Mothersbaugh which caught my attention as a soundtrack nerd because it's slightly reminiscent of the great Jerry Goldsmith in places, something which is frankly always welcome. Statham's hardman act is always good fun to watch although the action scenes are too jittery and hand-held, and the fast cutting means a lot of the sense of what's actually going on gets lost (see the pre-credits chase in Quantum Of Solace: I had to see it at least twice before I could be sure which car was in front and which car James Bond was driving). Editing doesn't mean putting as many shots together as possible, it means putting the right shots together in the way that music isn't automatically better just because it's got more notes in it.

The level of violence in Safe is pretty high, given the BBFC's lenient 15 certificate as there's a lot of fighting, shooting and swearing, and I genuinely wouldn't have been that surprised if it had been given an 18. Maybe they decided it was just cops-and-crooks bang-bang with no sexual element to it but it's at the top end of the 15 category. As far as Jason Statham movies go, it's certainly better than the overrated Crank movies (Neveldene and Taylor really need to calm down) but not up there with the first two Transporter movies, even the silly second one, or something as deliriously knuckle-headed as Death Race. Good walloping fun nonetheless.


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