You don’t recognize the name of director Boaz Yakin because he’s spent his career making crap. He started off writing crap like the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie, moved on later to direct schmaltzy crap like Remember the Titans, before coming around to egregiously stupid crap like Uptown Girls. But finally, it seems as if Yakin has figured out the correct way to make crap: make it a bit ridiculous, make it a bit violent, and have Jason Statham star in it. This is what we get from Yakin’s latest, Safe, which is every bit Yakin’s film, since he both wrote and directed it. And while his history isn’t the most sterling, Safe kicks off with an impressive bit of filmmaking, jumping backwards thrice and skipping across continents in flashbacks that get the bulk of the set-up out of the way. It’s clever without being distracting and cuts a ton of fat out of what becomes a very paunchy storyline. Within a matter of minutes, we meet Mai (Catherine Chan), a young Chinese girl who’s been kidnapped and taken to New York City by Triads who hope to take advantage of her talent for memorizing numbers. We’re also introduced to Luke Wright (Statham), a washed-up MMA fighter whose wife’s been murdered by Russian gangsters for his accidental refusal to throw a fight. And just to make things more absurdly hellish for Luke, these same Russians have promised to off anyone he befriends in the future. That’s the set-up, with the plot being driven by the Chinese and Russian gangs fighting over Mai for a number she has locked in her memory, and the now homeless, down-and-out Luke meeting her and deciding to protect this young girl, becoming a vaguely Westernized version of Lone Wolf and Cub. None of it is particularly heady or original, but Statham plays it mostly straight — with asides for a few hardass moments — and has the acting ability needed in order to play up Luke’s obvious emotional turmoil, all the while never making it silly.
Director: Boaz Yakin
Writer: Boaz Yakin
Cast: Jason Statham, Chris Sarandon, James Hong, Robert John Burke, Anson Mount, Reggie Lee, Victor Pagan, Igor Jijikine, Danny Hoch and Danielle McKee