I haven’t reviewed a lot of straight-up action movies here. I don’t dislike mindless action movies, I really don’t. I think that when they’re done correctly they can be a lot of fun. That said, today’s movie, Safe, starring Jason Statham was not done correctly.
In the movie, Statham plays down-on-his-luck super-badass Luke Wright. When he comes across Mei (Catherine Chan), an 11 year-old math prodigy who is caught in a conflict between Russian and Chinese mobsters and a squad of brazenly corrupt cops, Luke decides to come to her aid and much ass-kicking commences.
This isn’t in any way an original story, or really a story worth telling on its own merits. Of course, the story really only exists as a frame on which to hang a bunch of cool action sequences. Unfortunately none of those action sequences was really all THAT cool. For whatever reason, the filmmakers decided that at all the big shootouts should happen in bars/restaurants, it was ridiculous. I saw bar-tenders in at least two, maybe three, separate establishments pull out guns from behind the bar, only to get blown away.
Then there was the way that the action scenes were shot. I know that shaky-cam is the cool new thing to make action scenes more immersive or whatever, but when it results in extreme close-ups where you can’t really see what’s going on, it kind of takes most of the fun out a movies where the draw is supposed to be that it’s a visual spectacle. This goes double for a car chase. Safe does have one car-chase that could probably be pretty cool, if it weren’t for the fact that the whole thing seems like it was filmed on an iPhone by somebody sitting in the back seat without a seatbelt. Ok, that’s not entirely true, some shots are from outside the car, but they’re still filmed so close-up that you rarely if ever can fit the entire car in the frame, much less enough of the street to lend the chase any perspective.
This isn’t the worst action movie I’ve ever seen. If I were to rank all the action movies I’ve ever seen it’s somewhere in the middle, but probably towards the bottom of the middle. It’s entirely watchable, but just feels like it doesn’t reach its potential. Maybe that’s because of the way it’s shot, or maybe it’s because of the convoluted plot, or the muddled character that Statham is tasked with portraying. Hopefully some of these things will be fixed when the sequel rolls around in a couple years. I do expect a sequel is coming since, conveniently, all of the top bad-guys get away more-or-less scot-free. Of course, this means that we were deprived any sort of awesome final show-down in this movie, which, now that I think about it, is another major flaw with Safe as an action movie, and one more reason why it’s not worth seeing.