It’s been a while since we’ve seen The Stath go it alone, so we can all be grateful for the arrival of Safe: an action film about as straightforward as they come, it’s undoubtedly a Jason Statham vehicle and all the better for it. Bearing a slight resemblance to Mercury Rising, but immeasurably better executed, Safe is an absolute blast which only asks that its audience switch their brains firmly into neutral in order to enjoy its mix of old-school action one-liners and crunching fight sequences. That it doesn’t build up into a suitably explosive climax is disappointing, but enough fun is had along the way to compensate.
After looking like it’ll get straight into the action as it opens on the metro station that’s shown in the trailer, Safe takes a breather as it introduces the various strands that form the movie from Statham’s Luke Wright, once the “big apple’s hardest cop” but now living on the streets after a run-in with the Russian Mafia, to Mei's (Catherine Chan) background and how she came to come by the code that leads to the Mafia, the Triads and the cops all trying to track her down. It’s a smartly edited but lacklustre opening that goes on a touch too long – including some almost pointless interludes – but once we find ourselves back in the metro station, the pace never relents as we follow Wright on his quest to save the girl over the course of one night.
This leads to some highly entertaining, bruising encounters that are sharply captured by director Boaz Yakin and cinematographer Stefan Czapsky, and ones which pleasingly keep the quick-cut editing to a minimum. But it’s the moments outside of these that make Safe shine, even if The Stath speaking Russian before proceeding to gun down a restaurant of mobsters is deliriously enjoyable in its own right. The film works because in Catherine Chan, Yakin has found a child actor that proceeds to not be annoying and instead forms a great rapport with Statham, who displays his usual mix of easy charisma and strong screen presence, which adds an extra level to the film on top of its knockabout action joy.
In fairness, it isn’t the most original piece of work – no prizes for guessing what the motives of Statham’s ex-colleague really turn out to be – but Safe gets a lot more right than it does wrong and the result is a well-crafted actioner with a great central performance from the increasingly reliable Statham. For audiences in need of a quick action fix or for some solid Friday night fare, Safe is just about the surest bet there is.