It’s Chinatown bosses versus Russian Mafia versus corrupt NYC cops versus Jason Statham in this latest action-thriller, Safe. The story revolves around Mei, a ten year old Chinese prodigy with a photographic memory for numbers. Mei (Catherine Chan) is caught between the Chinese triad, who have been using her as a human computer, and the Russian Mafia, who seek to use her knowledge for their gain. Statham plays Luke Wright, an ex-cop and ex-cage fighter who loses everything after blowing a rigged fight. Homeless on the streets of New York, he makes it his mission to save Mei from the Russian gang who destroyed his life.

The first five or six minutes of Safe whizz by in as many time-shifts, which writer and director Boaz Yakin uses brilliantly to set up Mei and Luke’s backstories and immediately pull the audience into the movie. The two stories come together neatly, each showing a different brutal underbelly to this version of New York society.

Safe is loaded with gun battles and fist fights to keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s also some good camera work that lends a professional and polished feel. The first car chase heavily uses the rear view mirror which feels more creative and involving than the usual action-movie chase. Hardly a moment passes without any action and Safe hurls itself along at an impeccable speed.

Statham’s character, Luke, ‘is a killer, but an honest one,’ and Statham manages to show enough heart to make his character likable.  He also has a good share of neat lines and nice moves that ramp up the entertainment level. Statham’s rivals, played by James Hong, Robert John Burke and Sandor Tecsy are also strong support.

The real gem of Safe though is Catherine Chan as ten year old, Mei. The part of Mei is an interesting one, refreshingly untypical for the child-in-danger character. Mei is not simply clever, but is also wise, recognising how ‘business’ works – that people are used and killed when they are no longer necessary – and so she plays the game with a child’s vulnerability and an adult’s shrewdness.

Safe is fast, energetic and exciting. It’s also polished, with a well rounded cast and a neat script. A must see for action fans.

VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

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