Be honest: you must go into a cold sweat when you see a Jason Statham film come across your desk. Everything that makes his films work surely makes your job a living nightmare.
No other action star over the past decade has been so dedicated and single-minded in their pursuit of pure testosterone-fueled action heroics. Sure, Safe breaks the mold from time-to-time by offering us deeper moments of vulnerability, but only as a explosive counterpoint to what's next.
For me, it started early on when director Boaz Yakin used that long take to force, on cue, a tear from Statham's eye. We know he does his own stunts, but producing his own tears? Impressive stuff. At this point, as you first read the script, it's possible you believed you had a nice comfortable drama on your hands; nothing but standard liabilities to worry about. You may have even thought, as the narrative folds in a young Asian wiz-kid, that this generation was finally getting their Cop and a Half. Fortunately, you didn't get off so easy.
The paternal instinct Statham displays for the film's code-cracking McGuffin (Catherine Chan) is designed less to show his vulnerability than to offer a purpose for his no-holds-barred protection of her. Such character development was just enough to keep me invested during the one-man war he wages against the Russian Mafia, Chinese Crimelords, and the corrupt New York Police force. From your point of view, sure, it's just a mounting pile of paperwork. But for the rest of us, I promise, it's much more thrilling.
The action pieces come hard and fast, brought to life by efficient choreography that helps the action feel exciting and (cover your eyes!) dangerous. The hand-held yet surprisingly fluid cinematography certainly helps make the risks feel realistic. By the time the mid-town shoot-out rolled around, I had to remind myself that equipment is just as liable as people on-set.
Man, you must have hated this film.
I'm sure you learned your lesson. If you're looking to minimize damage claims, steer clear of any and all Jason Statham vehicles (including actual vehicles). He never branches out into family comedies or takes a romantic tangent - what would be the point? His career is perfectly Safe right where it is.
Danger is his middle name,