Safe Blu-ray Review
Jason Statham is the current and undisputed king of the short-title action flick. Whether people knew it or not back in 2002, the proverbial torch that lights the gasoline trail which causes the massive highway explosion was passed from the very capable hands of Seagal and feet of Van Damme to the raspy, yet somehow eloquent British accent of Statham with THE TRANSPORTER. Since then, Statham has pretty much cornered the market on the extreme action film genre, but unfortunately his success has come at the price of his most unheralded advantage over his counterparts … his acting ability.
In SAFE, Statham plays Luke Wright, a guy with a very secretive and dangerous past that he’s been trying to run away from. Wright’s bad decision making does nothing for his efforts as his life is blown apart after he screws up an MMA fight in which he was suppose to take a fall. During his decent into an aloof oblivion, Wright crosses paths with Mei (Catherine Chan), a very young girl who possesses the ability to memorize complex numbers with a glance and perform elaborate calculations in her head. Mei had been forcibly adopted by the Triads and used to keep tabs on under-performing branches of the “business.” But when she memorizes a code that unlocks a safe with priceless contents, she is hunted by everyone from the Russian mob to corrupt members of the NYPD.
SAFE is a bit of a throw back for Statham to his SNATCH days. Not that there’s a lack of action in this film at all, but unlike most of his recent work, it’s not the mainstay of the story. If the whole action hero thing did not take off the way it did for Statham, we all might have experienced a very different career as he absolutely has the acting chops to play characters well outside his perceived “wheel house.” Luke Wright is not a remote or distant departure from Statham’s disposable, one dimensional, beat’em up with a smirk, tough guy personas, but he does get to share a lot of screen time with a very talented child actor in Catherine Chan, which brings out more of Statham’s subtle talents to the forefront.
Another form of déjà vu in this Statham film is the directing of Boaz Yakin (REMEMBER THE TITANS). Yakin’s style in SAFE is very reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s, specifically 2000’s SNATCH. It was almost as if Yakin was trying to capture a small piece of that film to counter the mostly slow pace of his script. Even with some great action sequences the film tended to drag when Statham and Chan were off screen for even a second, and the main plot points were portrayed as overly complicated. However, a crowning achievement of the film is its cinematography. Yakin makes use of quick and inventive transitions without leaving a staggered or jarring effect.
Even though SAFE is more of a slow-paced action film, it could’ve benefited from highlighting more of the charismatic talents of its pro- and antagonists. James Hong (BLADE RUNNER, TANGO AND CASH), who seems like he’s contractually obligated to be in any project consisting of more than two Asian-based performers, is undervalued in this film as opportunities for classic hero/villain scenes frothing over with ego were squandered.
SAFE may be an unfortunate analogy for the lack of risks Statham has taken with his career in the last decade, but at least the film is a semblance of something from when it looked like a plentiful amount of deep and meaningful roles could be afforded to him. Hopefully, it’s even foreshadowing that they still are.
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen Much of SAFE’s color pallet was very muted, which complemented the utter chaos that had become Wright’s life. Blacks could have been deeper and low light scenes were a little soft.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Action scenes had fantastic sound for the special effects but when dialogue was included in those scenes it certainly suffered. Jason Statham is not the easiest person to understand when he’s speaking softly and there were moments when it seems like his voice is completely drowned out.
Commentary with Writer/Director Boaz Yakin: Yakin is very precise and thorough with this commentary. He’s engaging and really gives you a feel for just how much care and effort goes into creating a film from scratch. Yakin gives his takes on the action genre as a whole and what made him want to come back to them after a long layoff.
Cracking Safe (11:40): A typical behind-the-scenes featurette with commentary from the cast and crew. Showing the original storyboarding was interesting to see, along with Statham speaking in non-badass mode.
Criminal Battleground (8 min): Writer/Director Boaz Yakin gives background on New York as the main setting for the story, utilizing production stills and spotlighting some of the supporting characters like James Hong and Reggie Lee.
The Art of the Gunfight (10:16): A featurette on the making and choreography of a gunfight. Actually quite interesting as it’s a topic not frequently addressed. Just as much, if not more, thought goes into a gun fight than hand to hand combat.