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A former elite agent takes on a two-tier mission: rescue a Chinese girl who has been abducted by the Triads, then use a highly desired safe combination to outwit the Russian Mafia, corrupt NYC officials, and the Triads themselves.
For more about Safe and the Safe Blu-ray release, see Safe Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 6, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jason Statham, Chris Sarandon (I), Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount
Director: Boaz Yakin
» See full cast & crew
Safe Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 6, 2012
Jason Statham may not exactly be Laurence Olivier, but what he does, he does very well. Statham has cornered the market on the tough as nails solitary hero who squints and decimates his way through trials and tribulations, more often than not capping a butt kicking with a stupid joke (in other words, Statham follows in a long line of wisecracking, steel sharp heroes and we may in fact be seeing him doing a routine with an empty chair at some political convention circa 2044). Those elements are all firmly on display in Safe, a film that starts with a bang and rarely lets up afterward, even as its plot slowly frays into predictability after a surprisingly visceral first act. In fact the first half hour or so of Safe is a virtually breathless affair, with some virtuoso editing that cartwheels the viewer through a number of soon to be intersecting plot developments with some very smart cutting that can, for example, start with Statham aiming a punch at a dirty Las Vegas bookie and end with Statham taking a punch from the distraught mother of cage fighter whom Statham's character Luke, an amateur prize fighter, has put into a coma. Luke, it turns out, was supposed to take a dive in this particular fight, and may in fact have been more than willing to, but an ill timed punch knocked his opponent out (perhaps permanently) in one fell swoop. That, it soon becomes clear, was a major mistake, as a major Russian crime syndicate had millions in bets placed against Luke. Later we find out a bunch of New York cops had also been betting against Luke, and that Luke was once part of the vaunted thin blue line. In the meantime, the other major character of Safe is facing her own problems. Chinese math savant Mei (Catherine Chan) is swooped into servitude by what appear to be Triad members (led by inimitable character actor James Hong), who transport the hapless girl to New York to use her math skills first to keep track of their various operations and, later, to memorize a long sequence of numbers which has some hidden, yet obviously important, purpose. Will these two characters' lives intersect? If you're asking that question, you probably haven't seen a movie recently.
Luke's nickname might be Job, considering what he goes through in the opening act of Safe. He puts a man in a coma, finds out he's wronged a vicious Russian crime boss, and then runs home to find the criminal's gang already there, having already violently murdered his wife. Surprisingly instead of killing Luke, they inform him they're going to let him live óbut at a price. He'll be watched constantly and anyone with whom he forges any kind of relationship will be killed. Luke becomes an isolated street person and, true to the criminals' word, when he gives another homeless man his boots, the man ends up with his throat slit the next morning.
Mei in the meantime is forced to witness unmitigated smack downs of those in the Triad syndicate who are skimming money for their own purposes, even as she's lauded for so easily memorizing profit and loss statements and, later, the mysterious long form number. That number is evidently part of a longer code, but on the way to getting the next part, the Chinese gang is ambushed by the Russians and Mei is taken yet again. In one of the film's underdeveloped moments, suddenly the New York police force shows up at the Russian stronghold, threatening to bust the door down, which gives Mei the chance to escape.
Safe (the title is a none too clever play on words, combining the adjectival and noun forms in that Luke keeps Mei safe while the big number Mei has memorized turns out to be a combination to a safe) has a few too many coincidences for its own good. First of these is the neat little tie-ins which see the same Russian mob terrorizing Luke and then taking Mei captive (momentarily, anyway). Another subplot involves Luke's former life as a policeman, and of course it turns out many of New York's supposed finest are involved in incredible graft and corruption, including close ties with both the Russian and Chinese criminal elements in the film. The chief of police, Captain Wolf (Robert John Burke) is up to his eyeballs in illicit activity, and by the film's end we find out the fish is in fact rotting from its head, namely New York's duplicitous Mayor (Chris Sarandon). It's all patently ludicrous, of course, and includes several sequences that simply strain credulity, but that's part and parcel of an action outing like this, a film which doesn't even pause to wonder if belief has been suspended and simply charges ahead full throttle, logic-torpedoes be damned.
If the film starts devolving into manic lunacy about halfway through, there's no denying the visceral impact that Yakin delivers in several exquisitely staged set pieces. The film is simply awash in sometimes intentionally funny violence, and there are several great moments involving car chases in downtown Manhattan and numerous shoot outs in a variety of public places. The denouement is somewhat muddled and again is played partially for laughs (at least insofar as the head Chinese bad guy), and the ostensible heartstring tugging moments at the end between Luke and Mei fall largely flat. But mindless entertainment is called mindless for a reason. If you leave your brain at the door, there's actually a lot to enjoy about Safe.
Safe Blu-ray, Video Quality
Safe is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Aside from some very minor niggling concerns, this is an outstanding high definition presentation which offers a beautifully sharp and well detailed image that for the most part features excellent contrast, solid black levels and accurate and nicely saturated color. A lot of the film has been (surprise, surprise) color graded in shades of cool blues and greens, but perhaps unexpectedly those decisions don't really rob the image of much fine object detail. The film also features an intentionally grainy look a lot of the time, which actually helps to establish the gritty, grimy New York ambience quite well. Contrast does fluctuate mildly, especially in some of the darker interior scenes, where shadow detail edges toward the murky side of things. And there are a couple of issues of motion judder in fast pans that are momentarily distracting. Otherwise, though, this is a really solid looking transfer that should please most videophiles.
Safe Blu-ray, Audio Quality
From literally the first moment of Safe's astoundingly effective lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, when a subway whooshes by and the sound pans intensely across the sound field, you know you're in for a bristling good time with this sound mix. Fidelity is spot on throughout this enterprise, with some wonderfully effective foley effects and beautifully immersive use of the surround channels. A lot of the urban locations are filled with crowd noises, but some of the best sound effects come (not surprisingly) in the shootout sequences. A big gun battle toward the end of the film features fantastic LFE and some inventive discrete channelization. I couldn't figure out for a moment why repeated gunfire was erupting from the right rear channel until I realized the frame was actually showing the results of bullets supposedly zinging in from "behind" the viewer. Dynamic range is wide and the track is extremely boisterous but surprisingly nuanced.
Safe Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Safe Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Just as Statham may not be Olivier, Safe may not be Citizen Kane, but who says it (or Statham) has to be? This is a pure adrenaline rush of a film and it really is quite brilliantly staged. The first third or so also shows Yakin's excellent command of the action idiom and utilizes some very smart cross cutting between several simultaneously developing storylines. Once those stories finally intersect there's a perhaps expectedly precipitous dropoff in innovation, but the film still manages to cartwheel effectively through several impressive set pieces. This Blu-ray offers excellent video and reference quality audio and comes with some above average supplements. Recommended.
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Safe Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Safe Blu-ray - June 25, 2012
Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring Safe to Blu-ray in the fall. This action-thriller stars Jason Statham (The Expendables) as Luke Wright, a wayward MMA cage fighter who becomes a key pawn in a brutal series of machinations between the Russian Mafia, the ...
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