Sunday, April 29, 2012
Movie Review: Safe (2012)
Words by Thrasher
Safe is the best Jason Statham movie in years, and any complaints about its formularism would be misplaced. I can hear normally adroit critics opining now: "It's doesn't break any new ground..." "No innovation..." "Run of the mill..." Such comments, most cliches themselves, miss the point of genres, that being to specifically not break new ground, at least not entirely. It's more like repainting a house than tearing it down, and obviously that kind of renovation has tremendous benefits for filmmakers as well as for audiences, who like the familiar just as much as they like something new, who enjoy a theme and its variations. Safe is an action film, and not a particularly maverick one at that, and that's truly commendable.
Statham plays a cage fighter with a dark past, as you would expect, and after he botches a rigged fight for the Russian mafia, his wife is killed, as you would expect, and he is forced to wander the streets, broke. Before he can throw himself into an oncoming subway train, he finds salvation in a young girl, as you would expect, whom he rescues from her shady pursuers. They develop an unconventional bond, as you would expect, and Statham then proceeds to break bones and shoot fools and spew one-liners with about equal measure, as you would expect. But let's not mistake narrative tropes for cliches. True, much of the story is droll, but as I've said before, hackneyed plots are a virtual prerequisite for these movies. Parts of the story were muddled, but they get us to the fun bits sure enough, and the stunt work is, for the most part, good. Camera movement is a little rough during the fight scenes, a little blurry and unsteady (per the norm of today's mainstream film), but still, you get the context and the impact; I had no problem understanding, and better still, appreciating, the many interesting ways Statham knows how to disarm adversaries. The car chases are much less competently handled, and the jerky camerawork gets a trifle out-of-hand, but thankfully they're over quickly. Dialogue is horribly cheesy and punny, but again, that's something one expects from the action cinema, and Statham's inflection is always funny, however much it is unintended, and he obviously has a natural knack for timing. Unlike Transporter 3, this one understands how to use Statham, and not just for his star image and his narrative/stylistic baggage, but for his physical capabilities as well. That's a "smart" dumb action movie.