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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 04.27.12] action thriller

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Watching Boaz Yakin's Safe I was reminded, even more than usual, of the action movies my dad loved to watch in the 90s, the ones where Steven Seagal is a tough guy that lands in the middle of problems he has to find his way out of. When the stories included girls, they tended to be sexy model types but the action was always good fun, especially when he was fighting off really nasty bad guys.

Though he's much easier on the eyes, I find Jason Statham has the same sort of macho appeal Seagal does. He's tough as nails but he's also a little softer than some of his contemporaries and his movies always have a contrived touching moment when he gets all quiet and emotional. Safe is pretty much like that from beginning to end when, early on, Statham's Luke Wright, an ex-cop and vigilante working for the mayor (this part of the story is a grey mess of partly explained story) rescues a little girl who is running from the Chinese, the Russians and the dirty cops who play hired thugs to either faction depending on who has the deepest pockets. That's a lot of bad guys and come on, does it really get any worse than the Chinese AND the Russians?

It's a game of cat and mouse. First the Chinese have her and then the Russians kidnap her before Luke comes in, guns and knuckles blazing, to save the day. And save the day he does. Gun fights, point blank shootings, fork stabbings and more than one seriously awesome fight sequence, he's a battle hardened man not to be messed with. Statham is a great action star and Safe is his perfect vehicle - complete with amped gun sounds and bone breaking. It's refreshing to see a movie that doesn't fall into the frantic camera movement so popular with current action flicks and like The Raid: Redemption (review) a few weeks ago, the sequences here are fluid, jaw dropping and easy to follow without getting a headache.

As everyone runs around trying to track down the little girl, the big guns come out of the woodwork and the next thing you know the mayor's right-hand-man/lover Alex Rose, "Hell on Wheels" star Anson Mount, and Luke are facing off. They have a history together but it's hard to tell exactly what that history is. Doesn't matter much other than to note that Statham and Mount make formidable opponents and both manage to bring to the screen a somewhat playful but deadly hate for each other and though their fight is cut short by a third party, a moment that erupted a cheer from the crowd, the menace and feeling that these two guys are equally matched was clearly visible. I only wish they had more screen time together.

There are many missing pieces in Safe's script and entire plot threads that are introduced and then hastily, if at all, explained but you don't walk into this looking for high drama. It's all about the action and Yakin's movie certainly delivers enough of that, along with bits of comedy and Statham being completely badass, that it passes. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Lockout (review) but its good, occasionally gruesome, entertainment.

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