Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount, Sándor Técsy, Joseph Sikora, Igor Jijikine, Reggie Lee, James Colby, Matt O'Toole, Jack Gwaltney, Barry Bradford, Jay Giannone
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Directed by: Boaz Yakin
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence throughout, and for language
Running Time: 94
Date: 04/27/2012

Safe (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bad Combination

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Boaz Yakin has created a new riff on the old Red Harvest/Yojimbo story of a lone stranger playing two warring families against one another, and he has upped the stakes with a third group and the little girl character. His screenplay is taut and clever, and might have been turned into a decent movie. But behind the camera, Yakin puts a great deal less thought into his story.

Luke Wright (Jason Statham) used to work as a special agent for the NYPD, but now he's a lowly cage fighter, angering the Russian mob by not taking a fall. Ruined and desperate, he begins to think about suicide when he spots 10 year-old Mei (Catherine Chan), on the run from Russian thugs. She is a mathematical genius held prisoner by the Chinese mafia to keep their books. She has escaped with a special numerical code that is desperately wanted by the Chinese, the Russians, and a band of dirty New York cops. It's up to Luke to protect the girl, play the bad guys against one another, and solve the secret of the code.

Yakin constantly makes the basest and most vulgar choices, which begins with the horrible, shaky, nausea-inducing camerawork that ruins the fight scenes. Then there's a general queasy feeling watching poor little Catherine Chan involved in all these violent sequences, when, in real life, she wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- be allowed to see the finished film. Finally, Jason Statham has chosen to cover up his usual English accent with a fake New York accent, and it serves to erase some of the charm that is usually associated with his characters. Overall, Safe is terribly glum and resolutely average.

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