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Is It “Safe” to See Jason Statham’s New Flick?

April 30, 2012

Jason Statham makes too many movies. Some are good (last year’s underrated remake of The Mechanic), some are bad (last year’s underwhelming non-remake of Killer Elite), and many are—to borrow the title of his biggest hit—expendable. But occasionally, Statham winds up in a gem when he works with a filmmaker, like The Bank Job‘s Roger Donaldson, who knows how to maximize his limited British-Bruce-Willis acting skills. And that’s the case with Boaz Yakin’s Safe, though you wouldn’t know it from LionsGate’s perfunctory ad campaign. (It’s their second recent marketing misfire after The Cabin in the Woods; guess all their attention was focused on The Hunger Games.)

Statham stars as a former NYPD cop and MMA fighter (don’t ask) who stumbles into the cross-hairs of the Chinese and Russian Mobs as well his corrupt ex-cop colleagues when he tries to protect an 11-year-old math genius (Catherine Chan, an instant charmer). OK, so the plot’s a little far-fetched, but you won’t have time to mind, since Safe moves like a speeding NYC subway train—the setting for one of the year’s best action sequences so far. Seriously, it makes the Crank: High Voltage flicks look like The English Patient.

A close reading of Safe‘s credits could clue you in that this isn’t just another run-of-the-mill Statham vehicle. Yakin’s a gifted filmmaker (his 1994 debut, Fresh, was like a gritty Searching for Bobby Fischer) who’s made a few missteps, like the Renee Zelwegger Hasidic drama A Price Above Rubies. But he’s clearly still valued for his visual and storytelling skills, considering Safe was produced by Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction) and Kevin Spacey, among others. And the supporting cast is peppered with intriguing performers, from ace character actors Chris Sarandon and Robert John Burke to monologist Danny Hoch and veteran villain James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China, the maitre’d in Seinfeld‘s “Chinese Restaurant” episode).

Is Safe going to change your life? No. But it deserved a better fate than to get a half-hearted release in the dead week before The Avengers kicks off the summer-movie season with a vengeance. I had high hopes for one of Statham’s next flicks, Parker (costarring Jennifer Lopez and Nick Nolte), but it just got bumped to next January, another dumping ground. Oh well, at least I can look forward to The Expendables 2.

What’s your favorite Jason Statham flick? Any Transporter fans out there?

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