The Scoop: 2012 R, directed by Boaz Yakin and starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, and Robert John Burke
Tagline: She has the code. He is the key.
Summary Capsule: Guy protects little girl from every bad guy in NYC ever
Justin’s Rating: Aha… I get it. “Safe” means more than one thing! I’m so smart!
Justin’s Review: You know what made Die Hard great? And you know why so many Die Hard clones failed to really touch on or improve on the original? Die Hard wasn’t just about witticisms and great action pieces, although it did have those. Die Hard took the time to build up its cast of characters before letting the bullets fly loose, gradually giving you heroes that you genuinely wanted to succeed because you liked them (and a villain who remained memorable because he was sophisticated and a very real threat). Die Hard also made its plot and all related touches and twists smart. It understood cause and effect. It took audience expectations and looped back on them. It made a hero who wasn’t completely invincible and a villain who actually had a shot at pulling the whole thing off. Its best moments, I think, were in the quiet lulls between the action — the cut feet, the elevator shaft, the radio conversations, the tension with the hostages. It’s all right there, but so many filmmakers just didn’t get it when they tried to copy the formula.
While not an equal to Die Hard, I’d be fine placing Safe as a little brother to John McLane and company. I’d never really heard of it, mostly because it looked like your typical brainless Jason Statham flick that used the “hero totes around a kid and protects him/her from the bad guys” plot that just about never works well for films. Yet it surprised me by hitting all of those Die Hard notes: It gave us time to get to know the two protagonists and really feel for their respective situations. It came up with a labyrinthian web of bad guys who are as much against each other as they are against the hero. It had smart moments that subverted what we expect from dumb action fare. And it didn’t spell out everything at once, but allowed the audience the journey of piecing it together along the way.
And it had tons of fast, furious action set pieces that weren’t filmed in shakey-cam. That was a plus, of course.
The kid in question is a Chinese girl who has a surprising aptitude with numbers: remembering them and doing all sorts of math with them. She gets abducted to America, where’s she’s put to work for a New York crime boss. One day she’s given a super-long number that she’s told to memorize. She’s taken to another location, but along the way another gang attacks their car and she dashes away.
The guy in question is an ex-cop/ex-cage fighter (aren’t they all?) who’s family was killed by the mob and who’s relationship with his former partners is less-than-lukewarm. He’s practically homeless and just about to throw himself in front of a subway car when he notices a little girl being tracked. This is enough to trigger his protective instincts and he becomes her guardian angel. Of sorts.
The rest of the film is a romp through the city as the Chinese, Italians, and cops fight against each other and the guy to get the girl and her precious, precious number. What’s so important about the number? Well, that’s a small surprise that I’ll leave to the film.
In short, it’s a solid action flick that manages to be a cut above many of the Die Hard imitators. Maybe Jason Statham is a little too perfect and invincible to be an acceptable John McClane substitute, but it’s just always fun to watch him kick butt.
Alex Rosen: What is she to you?
Luke Wright: Life.
Mei: [to Luke] You’re a crazy man, but not so stupid.
Luke Wright: First I’m going to take your trophy wife. Then I’m going to take your trophy children. Then I’ll leave you with nothing. When I’m done, you won’t even be a memory of a memory.
Alex Rosen: [about his dead wife] I never understood how you hooked up with a cow like that.
Luke Wright: It was never about her looks, it was her sense of humor.
Alex Rosen: She’s not so funny now, is she?
Luke Wright: No, she’s not. Neither am I.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Die Hard
- The Expendables
- The Transporter