Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: "Safe" Takes Absolutely No Risks

In 1998, there was a pretty crappy Bruce Willis actioner by the name of 'Mercury Rising' that followed an exiled FBI agent (Willis) who takes it upon himself to protect a young Autistic boy from numerous nameless assassins after he cracks a highly-secure government code.  'Safe' is the 2012 version of 'Mercury Rising', substituting action and swear words for the barely detectable heart of its predecessor.  What were producers Lawrence Bender, who has produced all of Tarentino's masterpieces, and Kevin Spacey, who has been tied to some of the best movies of my generation, thinking when they agreed to make 'Safe'?!

Jason Statham plays Bruce Willis, I mean Luke Wright, a tormented former NYPD detective and now undercard MMA fighter in New Jersey (what a backstory).  Wright is such a great fighter with obvious skeletons in his closet that he accidentally kills his latest opponent with one punch after taking a self-imposed beating during a fight he was supposed to throw anyway.  His victory has cost a lot of people a lot of money, namely a Russian mob boss who wants his payment.  The boss's son kills Luke's wife and unborn child, but leaves him unscathed to roam New York City's homeless shelters in anguish, urging him to kill himself.  Interestingly enough, you also find out (all through expository dialogue) that his old police friends don't like Luke's return to the Big Apple either.  For whatever reason, they kidnap him, beat him up, and again, urge Wright to commit suicide.

Meanwhile, a young, smart Chinese girl who is a wiz with numbers is kidnapped by the Chinese gang in NYC to run finances for several of the businesses the gang owns.  You find out that all of her business efforts were simply a test to evaluate her memory, as she is then tasked with remembering an extremely long and evidently important number for the head of the gang.  On her way to deliver the number to whoever, the Russian gang intercepts the motorcade, all hell breaks loose, and the girl escapes.  She crosses paths with Statham's character in the subway, literally on the edge, as he contemplates stepping in front of the next train.  He senses her danger, perceives her as his reason to live, and goes on a killing spree to thwart the efforts of the Russian gang, Chinese gang, and corrupt cops to capture her.  At no time do you care about this girl; she simply exists as a reason for Statham to kick ass.

The dialogue in 'Safe' is many times cringe-inducing, with characters simply used as plot devices to explain what the hell is happening, and Statham delivers one-liners that harken back to the days of Arnold/Stallone flicks (not in a good way).  The action, while brutal and at times impressive thanks to Statham, is rather pedestrian and often falls victim to the standard gun fight.

For all the nay-saying, there is some cool one-take cinematography during the scenes where the girl is abducted.  In addition, Statham does commit to his part in this movie, which encourages you to see the story through. 

Perhaps I'm being hard on 'Safe'; I just saw no reason for this one to be made.  Sorry Lawrence Bender.  'Safe' opens in theaters today, April 27th.

Acting: 4/10

Direction: 6/10

Writing: 4/10 

Movie: 5/10

Verdict:  Rent it if you're a Statham fan or you haven't seen 'Mercury Rising'

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