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Monday, May 7, 2012

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(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 6 May 2012, retrieved from

Cast: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, James Hong, Sándor Técsy
Director: Boaz Yakin
Rating: 1 star
When you want a good bad guy to beat up bad bad guys, who better than Jason Statham, huh? After making the sort of entry Indian heroes did for decades – only, here we’re introduced to his rather nice back, and not his rather brown boots – Statham does what Indian heroes did for decades – wield guns. Sadly, most of the struggles in Safe, which could have been a fest of kicking and walloping, involve loading guns and delivering clichés.
So, I get that guns look cooler on a poster than contorted faces, but a film’s off to a bad start when you feel cheated of a good fistfight in the first few minutes. Here’s the deal: When the ruthless administration turns Luke Wright (Jason Statham) into a scum-disposing machine, he quits working for the cops and turns to cage-fighting. Great, move from the mayor to the mafia.
Naturally, he falls foul of Russian don Emile Docheski (Sándor Técsy), who promptly relieves him of family, home, purpose and prospective buddies. But our constantly-watched hero takes so long to reach the obvious conclusion – suicide – that he meets a 12-year-old who will fill his life with light again.
This is the premise of the film – why trust Siri when you can simply abduct a genius kid (Catherine Chan) to function as a memory palace instead? Mei’s been kidnapped by Han Jiao (James Hong) and his Triad – yeah, Hollywood’s hatred for Commies has expanded to include the Chinese now, which conveniently posits the action in New York’s Chinatown.
The action largely involves gang-walk set pieces, car crashes that are far less horrific than the cheesy lines everyone bites out (one scene involving a sandwich reminded me of Don 2), chronological switches seemingly designed to confuse the viewer, and a mounting body count. By the time you figure out what the three sets of bad guys involved want, a third of the film is over. And the rest is spent on pulverising logic to the extent your brain cells take a hike, and you just may find yourself sticking a straw into your popcorn.
The cleverest thing about this wannabe-non-formulaic film is its title. Best thing about the movie – Statham punches people before they can complete bad quips. Worst thing – who wants to see him try to cry? I do want to know whether he pronounces “numbers” in as many different accents as Anil Kapoor did “millionaire”, though. Moral of the story – you’ll never walk alone, even if you’re American enough to only associate Liverpool with the Beatles.
Verdict: If you – like me – find balding tough guys hot, you’re better off renting just about any Bruce Willis film.


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