Susan Granger’s review of “Safe” (Lionsgate)
Boaz Yakin’s action/crime-thriller incorporates so many elements of Jason Statham’s “Transporter” series that it’s difficult to know where one ends and the other begins.
This time, a precocious 12 year-old math prodigy named Mei (Catherine Chan) is abducted from Beijing and forced to work as a ‘counter’ for the Chinese Triads in New York, remembering coded numbers, charting ledgers and keeping account balances. The wary Chinese, headed by Han Jiao (James Hong), don’t trust computer documentation because they can get hacked. Then Mei is kidnapped by the Russians, run by mobster Vassily Docheski (Joseph Sikora), because her photographic memory contains the combinations to two safes. Miraculously, she escapes from her brutal captors on a Brooklyn subway platform, where she’s found, frightened and alone, by brawny Luke Wright (Statham), an ex-cop turned cage-fighter who is destitute and grieving, living in a homeless shelter and contemplating suicide after his pregnant wife was murdered by the Russians because he didn’t take a dive in a rigged Mixed Martial Arts match. Then there are more complications when it’s revealed that Luke was hired by crooked New York City Mayor Tremello (Chris Sarandon) and corrupt Captain Wolf (Robert John Burke) to control and extort from local mafia groups after 9/11. So saving Mei is Luke’s chance for redemption amid all the double-crosses.
Writer/director Boaz Yakin (“The Punisher,” “The Rookie,” “Fresh”) barely stops to count the civilian collateral carnage as violent, digitally exaggerated, quick cut shoot-outs erupt all over New York – in a subway car, a hotel dining room and a Chinatown nightclub. And young Catherine Chan joins the list of youngsters – like Natalie Portman in “The Professional” and Chloe Grace Moretz in “Kick-Ass” – who launched their acting careers as innocents in action films.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Safe” is a familiarly forceful, ferocious 4, or as someone says, “This is really getting out of hand.”