Jason Statham is the cult action star of his generation. I say this fully believing this statement. The modern action film has seen the demise of the action star. In the 80’s and early 90’s actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were mega stars, through the ever growing medium of the action film. Just behind them sat Bruce Willis (mainly due to Die Hard) and Kurt Russell. Even further down the pecking order you’d find the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, these guys had great careers, but failed to achieve the box office pull their counterparts received. These actors worked primarily in the burgeoning home video market, and were cult heroes to many. Yes they occasionally broke out and had a film released to a wider audience in an actual theatre, but not very often.
This is where Jason Statham would have found himself had he been around 10-15 years earlier. Only now the fabric of the action film has changed. Its no longer populated by ripped guys in tight shirts kicking-ass. Instead we have computer generated robots based on toys, or invisible aliens based on a shitty game, where the only object is to say a collection of numbers and hope you sink a battleship. What the hell happened to the testosterone fuelled, acceptable gratuitous violence that I grew up with?
There is a void in the market, and its being filled by Jason Statham.
Statham is making those mid-level action movies, whose special effects are the abilities of their star, and this makes them more simplistic, and the more simplistic a movie, often the less $$ you have to spend. Your average Jason Statham movie will run at a budget of around $30m to $50m, so around at most 1/4 of lets say Battleship. Now of course your average Jason Statham movie is not going to make anywhere near Battleship money, but what it will do is make steady profit at the box office and a healthy return on DVD and Blu-ray, making Jason Statham one of the safest movie stars out there, the worst that can happen is the film could capture an audience or meme it was not aiming for and end up making more then expected.
Safe is Statham’s latest film, and will be released nationwide on the 27th of April in the US and the 4th of May 2012 in the UK. Its your standard run of the mill plot line, Statham plays Luke Wright, an ex-cop who is now a punching bag used by Russian mobsters to throw MMA fights. An incident happens that forces him into a life of solitude. Meanwhile a gifted young Chinese girl Mei (Catherine Chan) is brought to New York to by Chinese mobsters because of her ability to remember complex and long numbers in an instant. When Mei is asked to remember a number of great importance by the head of the Chinese mob, Han Jiao (James Hong) she becomes a target for the Russian mob to kidnap, and this is where Mei and Luke’s paths cross.
Amazingly there are spoilers in this film. Its a simple yet well written and constructed story, that actually holds together very well. Yeah its not Inception, but its certainly got more plot than a Michael Bay film.
The star of the show is in great form, and director Boaz Yakin certainly knows where he should place all the action shots, firmly on Statham. The close camera action style this film uses has its critics, who often say the use of “shaky” cam is too disorientating to make out whats going on, they can have none of those complaints here. This is some of the finest close action fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time, there is great composure in Yakin’s framing of the action, and much of it, although not shot from Mei’s viewpoint, is shot as if from her eye level, which is an interesting stylistic choice.
Most of the supporting cast are very solid. There are great turns from Robert John Burke as Captain Wolf, a corrupt cop who used to work with Luke, and it’s fair to say that Luke is not popular with his ex-cop buddies, and Anson Mount who makes a brief but fantastic appearance towards the end. If there is one negative in the film its Reggie Lee’s Quan Chang, the man who Han Jiao has charged with looking after both Mei and his New York businesses. Reggie Lee crops up in a lot, but as a bad guy I’ve never found him convincing.
If you’re looking for deep, thought provoking cinema or a special effects laden blockbuster then go see something else. But if you’re looking for an ass-kicking, entertaining 94 minutes then you will not be disappointed, and if you are then I’m telling Statham!
Safe is released in theatres across the US from 27th of April 2012 and the UK 4th of May.
Anyway peace out suckers!