Harvey Critic - 27/04


Boaz Yakin might have us believe that "Safe" is the story of a man's redemption, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie with enough action to appeal to the computer-game set. However, "Safe" is nothing more than a big shooting gallery presentation with an overlay of sentiment designed to give it an arthouse flavor. The story is terminally absurd, particularly a scene in which major action star Jason Statham in the role of Luke Wright almost single-handedly takes out half of New York's Chinatown and enough of the Russian mafia on our shores to bring on objections from Vladimir Putin.

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Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: C-
Director: Boaz Yakin
Screenwriter: Boaz Yakin
Cast: Jason Statham, Catherine Chin, Chris Sarandon, Anson Mount
Screened at: Dolby24, NYC, 4/17/12
Opens: April 27, 2012

As Luke Wright, Statham takes on the role of a second-rate mixed martial arts performer who hits the floor more times than he should because his fights are rigged. On one disastrous occasion, however, he hits a fighter harder than he should have, causing the Russians to lose a million-dollar bet on the challenger. In return, the Russkies kill Luke's wife, causing him to wander the streets loaded with guilt, even sacking out in one of New York's shelters. Determined to end it all, he is about to leap onto the tracks of the subway train at Brooklyn's De Kalb station when he discovers Mei (Catherine Chan), an eleven year old girl, rushing from pillar to post to escape a group of men who are obviously not fixing their eyes on the lass to get lessons in Mandarin.

For most of the rest of the story, we see a New York that is worse than the "freak show central" that Al Pacino's Frank Slade dubbed Gotham in "The Scene of a Woman." The Big Apple is full of worms. Most of the police force is corrupt, the rot starting with Mayor Tremelo (Chris Sarandon) himself and seeping down to precinct captain Wolf (Robert John Burke). The Chinese Triads and the Russians want the girl, Mei, because this prodigy, a wizard with numbers, has memorized a long series of numbers that will prove to be the key to open a safe. The title character, so to speak, contains thirty million dollars.

The opening scene, one bereft of violence except to the self-esteem of a teacher, occurs in the beginning, situation in Nanjing, China. Mei, a gifted pupil shows the educator "with all due respect" that his computations are wrong. She is being transferred to a school for the gifted but instead winds up in New York with a set of numbers in her head. From there, she is on the lam from large groups of bad guys, forcing her to accept the kindness of a tough stranger, Luke Wright, who will (after charging down Manhattan streets on the wrong side of a one-way street) empty out a night club with extreme prejudice.

Everything that follows the scene in Nanjing is ridiculous to such an extent that even vid-game fans will laugh at the humor-which, in fact, does not exist.

Rated R. 95 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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