Make some cars chase one another at breakneck speed, add some death-defying stunts, mix in loads of gun-toting men and liberally sprinkle bleeped cuss words - what do you get? The Mission Impossible series, Bond flicks, Die Hard sequels? That is exactly what Boaz Yakin's Safe wants to offer - old wine in a pre-historic bottle. Unfortunately, unlike wine, an oft-repeated script gets worse with age, losing its charm when it hits theatres a 100th time, or maybe, in this case, a zillionth time.
Let's begin at the beginning. The story is about a Chinese wonder-kid Mei (Catherine Chan), who is desperately wanted by the Chinese mafia, the Russian mob and the American cops to get access to a safe that contains $30 million and a disc. Just when dejected ex-NYPD cop Luke Wright (Jason Statham) is about to end his life at a New York subway station, he finds his savior - Mei. It then becomes his mission to protect the little girl and end the movie on a happy note. What follows is as predictable as Hollywood marriages.
A Statham movie usually means zooming Audis, hard punches, fist fights and lots of blood splattering all over the place. However, Safe has no nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat action sequences, and doesn't live up to the expectations of a true blue-blooded Statham fan, even though Jason Statham looks great as usual (and acts mediocre, as usual).
Moreover, the various time-lines (one week earlier, one year earlier) in the script, and the different locations (China, New York), leave you confused, and you wonder if the director himself is lost. Yakin lacks clarity, and fails to handle differences of time and place with same genius as Christopher Nolan did with Inception
's dream-within-a-dream concept. To add to the confusion, some of the dialogues are in Mandarin and Russian, with subtitles in English.
However, one thing refreshing about Safe is its new definition of the macho man - under whose tough exterior lies a heart. Our muscled man, Wright, sheds a few tears when Russians kill his wife, and yet looks manly. Wright shows his humane side again when he gives away his shoes to a man at a refuge home when he sees his bleeding feet.
Safe also lacks something crucial to action movies - cheeky one-liners rendered by an uber confident hero. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger's "I'll be back" in Terminator, that became a cult catchphrase? There aren't any such dialogues in Safe that you will even remember when you leave the theatre.
Catherine Chan is merely a child, but walks away with accolades, thanks to her brilliant acting skills. In fact, her tiny frame doesn't do justice to her gusto, and she gets to voice some of the smartest dialogues in the movie. For example, when Luke tells Mei that he is not good at fatherhood, she says, "I don't need no father, will you be my friend?" And then, there's the letter she writes to a Chinese gangster, threatening him with consequences if he tries to follow her.
Safe captures the darker side of New York City. Instead of the brighter locales in other films, in Safe, you are exposed to the gray and sullen world of the USA's crime capital - with extreme poverty, corruption, greed, indifference, the underworld, mercenary cops and opportunist politicos. Sounds familiar?
Mark Mothersbaugh's music is not captivating, and doesn't come close to soundtracks in the popular MI and James Bond films.
Safe is not the safest bet if you are looking for power-packed performances or an Academy Award winning script. However, you may head to it if you don't mind 95 minutes of absurd action, or the lack of it.