Jason Statham is at his head-smashing best in new thriller Safe, rampaging across New York in a high-octane thriller that packs in car chases, violent fist fights and gun battles galore in a loud and furious 94 minutes. The Stath's involvement in the Expendables franchise has set him up as heir apparent to the likes of Stallone, Wills et al, and Safe further solidifies him as an old school action hero. He is not the thinking man's action hero, it's pure muscle and brawn that propels Statham's B movie antics.
Safe hits the ground running, cramming in several story threads as it propels forward with down-on-his-luck cop/cage fighter Luke Wright front and centre. A chance subway encounter with Mei (Catherine Chan), a child genius who's escaped her captors, draws him back into the criminal underworld.
The young girl's mind holds a code so valuable that Triads, Russian mobsters and bent cops are all chasing it in the hope it will unlock untold riches. Luke's wife died at the hands of the same Russian villains, meaning this quickly turns into a personal vendetta for the taciturn protagonist.
By letting Statham off the leash from the get-go and weaving the story around the mayhem, Safe pitches itself squarely at its leading man's loyal fans. The movie has a sharp intensity and sustains momentum enough to keep it highly watchable, even if it often falls back on genre clichés.
Amongst all the gunfire and scowling, there are shades of Luc Besson's Leon in Wright's relationship with his young companion Mei. The movie's title even takes on a dual meaning, as the hero's quest to unlock the safe sits alongside his desire to keep Mei out of harm's way. It's the latter moments that carry the least impact, mainly because there's barely any breathing space to expand on the Luke/Mei dynamic.
As a straight-up action fest, though, there's plenty to enjoy about Safe. Statham's robust tackling of subway carriage assailants (including metal pole-to-crotch agony), a bar fight that sees him shoulder-drop a table and his plummeting out of a window with a baddie to shield him from pavement impact are particular highlights.
The demented glee and comedic slant of Crank series is missing here, but those with a fondness for Statham's particular brand of action movie will leave this fully satisfied.