Luke (Jason Statham), an ex-special forces operative, is in charge of protecting a 12 year old Chinese girl, Mei (Catherine Chan), a mathematical genius who has memorised the combination to a safe that contains $30 million. Once word gets out that Mei is the only person who knows the combination, everyone in the criminal underworld - including mobsters, corrupt New York Cops and even Mei's own family - try to capture her. It's up to Luke, her only protector, to keep her alive and safe.
Review by Louise Keller:
Bullets ricochet, punches fly and the body count mounts in this Jason Statham actioner in which the Triad, the Russian Mafia and corrupt cops come to blows. Statham plays an ex-cop, turned cage-fighter caught up in a betting scam and it is a little Chinese girl with a photographic memory and a sweet face that brings all the parties together. A well written, if improbable screenplay by versatile writer Boaz Yakin, whose astute direction keeps the story-strands together and the action pounding. It's standard fare for Statham, who excels in these heavy duty action roles and as usual, he does it well. On its own terms the film delivers what it promises, but don't expect an emotional hit.
When the film begins, we meet 10 year old Mei (Chan, in her first feature film), a child maths prodigy with a computer-like mind, who is abducted by the Triads from her family in China. But unlike a computer that leaves a trail, Mei's ability to keep all the numbers in her head makes her useful to Triad leader Han Jiao (Hong) and is taken to New York where her talents are exploited for their illegal extortion schemes.
The subplot in which Luke (Statham) finds himself at odds with the Russian Mafia, when he knocks his opponent out in a rigged cage fight, is a bit hard to buy, especially the references to the wife we only hear about. Likewise the scenes at the homeless shelter. Ditto the railway station scene when Luke sees Mei hiding from rough Mafia-types and her plight stops him from jumping in front of a coming train; it's a big leap for the audience.
Those qualms aside, there is some nifty driving, a thrilling sequence on top of a speeding train and the bang-bang, shoot up scene in the upmarket New York hotel shows that even five star establishments are not immune to bloody chaos. And Statham delivers the line 'I never know what to say in moments like these - before I kill someone,' with consummate ease.
Statham, as the centre of all the action, is the film's undisputed star with Chan doing what is required of her. It's hard to decide whether the Chinese Triad, the Russian Mafia or the crooked New York cops are the nastiest, but in any case, there is little doubt about the outcome.
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SAFE (2012) (TBA)
CAST: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, James Hong, Robert John Burke, Anson Mount, Reggie Lee,
PRODUCER: Lawrence Bender, Dana Brunetti
DIRECTOR: Boaz Yakin
SCRIPT: Boaz Yakin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stefan Czapsky
EDITOR: Frederik Thoraval
MUSIC: Mark Mothersbaugh
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Joseph C. Nemec III
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 10, 2012