When I first saw a trailer for 'Safe,' it struck me as nothing more than a rip of that '90s Bruce Willis flick 'Mercury Rising' - a tough guy has to go against the odds by protecting a kid from a bad guy with an unlimited number of henchmen. Why is the kid wanted? In 'Mercury Rising,' the insanely intelligent boy cracks a mysterious code. In 'Safe,' a little girl with a photographic memory has seen something that a few groups of baddies want. Neither are terrible concepts, but if you thought the execution of 'Mercury Rising' was poor, you haven't seen anything yet.
'Safe' opens with intriguing images – ones that leave you wondering how things got to their present state – in an attempt to reel you in from the get-go. The problem is that what you see isn't really all that gripping. A mopey Jason Statham gives the impression he's about to hop in front of a speeding subway train. In this final moment of despair, right when he's about to splatter himself all over the New York City underground, something catches his attention. What is it? Well, you have to wait a while to find out, but I'll give you a hint – it's nothing special. We're forced to wait 31 minutes to find out what that opening scene is all about because we are tossed a couple layers deep into the flashbacks (voiced over by Statham, of course) that ultimately lead up to that opening sequence. First, we're shown Statham's past. This sequence establishes the first of many familiar plot points. A hard-ass refuses to take a dive for some crooked cops, so he comes home to find these same villains do awful things to his wife. Shortly thereafter, we're introduced to the kid.
In Hong Kong, a little girl is hired as a book keeper for a Chinese mob boss. The problem: the crime lord works out of New York City. The little one is separated from her mother and transplanted in NYC, where she memorizes the debit and credits of the illegal professional. She is completely looked after in America, her payment sent to provide her mother with "a better life." Get ready for seen-it-before back story galore leading up to her meeting with Statham's character. 31 minutes in we finally realize that the opening sequence was a sneak peek into how the two would cross paths. Yes, that's right – the plot does not completely get rolling until one-third of the movie is already under its belt. For touting itself as an action film, there's some action in that first act, but hardly any containing Statham, so it plods along.
When Statham and the girl are united, some strong action ensues. Finally. But something odd occurs shortly thereafter. Statham and the girl are separated. They go in different directions and we hardly see them together again. He ends up blasting multitudes of henchmen while she does … nothing memorable. Just like her unremarkable actions, the movie goes out with a less-than-spectacular fizzle.
I have a problem with movies that pose silly scenarios. The idea that the Chinese mob would take a girl from China and bring her to the U.S. solely because she has a photographic memory is downright stupid for two reasons: would it really be that hard to find someone stateside with a photographic memory? Or how about an adult with this ability? 'Mercury Rising' at least had an excuse for involving a child. 'Safe' doesn't.
I also have a problem with characters making drastic decisions only so the film can happen – like a suicidal guy having an epiphany when he sees a girl running through the subway. "Before, I had nothing to live for. I wore warm-ups like Ben Stiller and his boys in 'The Royal Tenenbaums,' but seeing a kid walk through the subway made me put on a sleek suit and a half-buttoned white shirt again just so I can kick ass and fight guys." His character can't even use the excuse that he's protecting her, because he's not. She's off on her own adventure during 95 percent of the movie. If she's made it this far, I'm not too sure that she even needs his help – not that he really offers much in the first place.
That saddest aspect of 'Safe' is that the filmmakers thought they were making a unique action flick. Check out the special features and you'll hear writer/director Boaz Yakin ('Prince of Persia: Sands of Time,' 'Remember the Titans' and ... 'Uptown Girls?' Really?) explain how he knew the story wasn't original, but thought that it was freshened-up enough by the connection between the characters and the relationship between them and audience. It's nice that he's willing to admit the lack of creativity in plot, but what he describes never comes to fruition. There is no connection – not between the characters and definitely not with the audience. 'Safe' is nothing more than a generic, forgettable action flick with less than a handful of memorable action sequences.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has placed 'Safe' on a Region A BD-50 that's housed in a blue single-disc vortex keepcase that slides vertically into a cheap cardboard slipcase. Included in the case is a code valid for the redemption of both an Ultraviolet and a Digital Copy of the film. When you insert the disc into your player, you are forced to watch a Lionsgate vanity reel prior to a skippable firmware disclaimer and trailers for 'The Hunger Games,' 'Man on a Ledge,' 'Haywire,' Ultraviolet and Epix.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding of 'Safe' is nearly perfect. Presented in a wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the video quality is leaps and bounds above the quality of the movie itself.
When the film opens, it's immediately noticeable how great the strong aspects of the transfer are. You'll notice the sharpness, the detail, the clarity, the depth and the vibrant colorization all at once. In truly impressive fashion, the characteristics stay strong for 99 percent of the movie.
'Safe' is so crisp and clear that if I hadn't read beforehand that it was shot on film, I would have believed that it was shot digitally. The clarity makes room for the rich details to shine through. Statham's iconic stubble is visible hair-by-hair, as are the tiniest particles of blood splatter soaring through the air. Textures abound stronger than they appear in reality.
Many locations in 'Safe' make way for wildly colorful settings that are bright and dreamlike. When the location calls for it – like gangster-filled Chinatown clubs – oversaturation occurs and washes out the details, adding tension and unease to the impending shootouts. Shadows are strong, but on occasion, they turn dark objects into detail-less blobs.
The only flaw that makes it way onto this disc is minor digital noise, which occurs during two dark and barely-lit scenes.
Lionsgate has followed suit and given 'Safe' a hearty 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. There are lots of sounds to be heard, but they're not always as well-mixed through the channels as they should be.
The opening scene of 'Safe' takes place in a crowded subway station as a train races by. Considering all of the effects taking place in this one location – an imaging train, the hustle and bustle of chatting bystanders and echoing effects of a tile-covered open space – the sound doesn't fill the theater very well. This lack of mixing isn't always the case, but it happens from time to time.
When we jump up to the surface, taxis and environmental sounds fill the space with imaging and dynamics – but when a sudden chaotic shootout erupts, the sounds also plays out chaotically. Without rhyme or reason, sound is simply thrown into different channels. Imaging goes out the window and sound appears unorganized. Loud effects can't make up for poorly mixed ones. The only sure sounds that that consistently come across as heavy and strong are gunshots. The firefighting aspect, no matter how lazy the mix is happening around it, is always fantastic.
I wanted 'Safe' to be one of those big dumb action movies worth owning – but it's not. It's just dumb. Think back to the forgettable, run-of-the-mill action movies from the '90s; 'Safe' is nothing more than a modern day equivalent of those. I do not exaggerate when I say that there's not a single memorable aspect of 'Safe.' The story features a dichotomy that has been done many times before, each of those instances much stranger than what we get here. The action isn't bad, but it's repetitious. Every action scene feels exactly like the previous one. The opening of the film fails to reel you in and, sadly, once the film picks up, it still can't manage to reel you in. The video quality is great, the audio is decent – but nothing about the movie itself makes it worthwhile. The special features are undermined by the filmmaker telling you why 'Safe' is better than the similar films that share the same concept when it simply isn't true. His passion shines through, but it comes across like he's trying to convince you that he's doing something that hasn't been done before. The only good thing to come from watching 'Safe' is gaining the firsthand knowledge that it's not worth watching.