Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, 2012's Jason Statham starring vehicle Safe sees the man best known for the Crank and The Transporter movies playing a former cop named Luke Wright who once made a living as a cage fighter but who now wanders the streets of New York City as a bit of a drifter. Back in his cage fighting days he had ties to the Russian mob and they're not really keen that he split from them - in fact, they're keeping a pretty close eye on him. Things start to get interesting for Luke when he meets up with a young Asian girl named Mei (Catherine Chan) who is in need of his help and thus gives him a purpose to keep on going. As luck would have it, by sheer coincidence she is being pursued by the same Russian mobsters who have made his own life difficult and have ties to his tragic past, and he decides that since he doesn't really have a whole lot else to live for, he might as well do what he can to save her life.
Adding to all of this is the presence of some Chinese Triads (lead by the always awesome James Hong) who once used Mei as a tool in that she's got an amazing, almost savant like ability with numbers. They want her back and will do what it takes to get her back - even if that means taking out Wright. And then there are the corrupt New York City Police Department officers who are out to exploit this situation in whatever way they can... and given that Mei knows the combination to a safe full of loot, well, they aim to get in on this action too.
Safe may deal in a series of action movie clichés but it does so with such a gleefully unapologetic grin that you can't help but have gun with this. The movie never feels like it's talking down to us, instead it's as if we're in on the joke while at the same time, everyone involved does it like they mean it, it's all played completely straight. Statham gets a few good one liners here and there and the dialogue tends to lean towards the preposterous but the movie hits the ground running and once the plot is set up, it doesn't slow down until the end credits hit the screen. This is one of those pictures that just goes for it, realism be damned, and it's all the more fun because of it.
Statham isn't doing anything we haven't seen him do plenty of times before here. His character is a mix of Mel Gibson from the Lethal Weapon movies and, well, pretty much every other action movie antihero Statham has played in the past. He's good in these types of roles and he seems to have fun doing them, so while the guy doesn't really get a chance to stretch in this role, he does give it his all and kick a whole lot of ass in the process. In short, you can't help but like the guy in the part. Contrasting his big tough guy persona with Catherine Chan's Mei allows us to see a slightly softer side of him as he does genuinely want to help her, but we never really approach much depth here, we get just enough of it to further the story along and that's that.
The real reason to watch the movie is, not surprisingly, the action sequences - all of which are top notch and plenty violent. We get countless car chases through New York City (and sometimes Pennsylvania locations doubling for New York City) and a really fun machine gun battle that takes place in the ornate lobby of a fancy hotel (and which therefore offers up lots of stuff to break and shatter and explode once the bullets start flying) and we even get a guy who is killed with a fork. It all amounts to a whole lot of nonsense but damn if it isn't fun. There are enough plot twists in the script to keep you interested and given that the film leaves things open for a sequel and that Statham movies tend to get sequels made fairly quickly for whatever reason, don't be surprised if we see a follow up movie made sooner rather than later. If it's half as much fun as this one, that'll be a good thing.
Safe arrives on Blu-ray in a very nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1, just as you'd hope for with such a recent movie making the move to Blu-ray. Detail is always very strong as is texture and color reproduction, when not intentionally tweaked for artistic effect, generally looks nice and realistic. Skin tones are nice and natural looking here, no obvious waxiness by way of noise reduction to complain about, while black levels are strong if not quite reference quality. There aren't any issues with compression artifacts or noticeable edge enhancement and all in all, the movie fares very well in high definition.
The only mix here is an English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix, but optional subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. Just as you'd expect from a Statham action movie, this is a very aggressive track with some impressively enveloping moments. Rear channels are used very effectively to help build suspense with the score and to put you in the middle of the action by way of some great directional effects. Most of the dialogue comes out of the front of the mix, which makes sense, but it's always crystal clear and never hard to understand in the slightest. Bass response is strong, deep and powerful but only to the point where it accents things, never to the point where it buries them, and of course there are no issues with any hiss or distortion of any kind. It's hard to find fault with this mix, it's very, very impressive.
The extras start off with an audio commentary courtesy of the film's writer/director Boaz Yakin. He speaks quite enthusiastically about the history of the project, where certain inspiration came from, working with Statham and the other cast members, locations, stunts and more. It's a fairly detailed track that covers pretty much all of the bases that you'd expect it to.
From there we move on to the featurettes, the first of which is Cracking Safe, a twelve minute long piece that interviews Yakin, the film's producer Lawrence Bender, star Jason Statham, and some members of the stunt crew responsible for a few of the more impressive set pieces seen in the film. This doesn't go as in-depth as you might want it to and Yakin covers much of the same ground that he did in the commentary but input from the other participants makes it worth a watch. The eight minute long Criminal Background featurette once again gets Yakin in front of the camera to discuss the three different forces that collide in the movie to make trouble for Statham's character and the differences and similarities that they share. The Art Of The Gunfight is a ten minute piece that takes a look at how the crew staged the main gun battle in New York City and which also explores how some of the chase and stunt scenes were handled. Yakin and the stunt coordinators from the first featurette show up here and offer their input - if you're into the behind the scenes workings of action films, this will be of interest.
Rounding out the extras are trailers for unrelated Lionsgate properties The Hunger Games, Man On A Ledge, and Haywire, animated menus and chapter selection. All of the extras are presented in high definition and a digital copy of the movie is also included.
Safe is a lot of action-intensive fun, even if it doesn't really feel particularly fresh. Let's face it, Statham isn't really stretching as an actor here, he's playing the same type of character he always seems to play but he does what he does well so we can't complain too much. The film moves at a very quick pace and offers some impressive and memorable set pieces - turn your brain off and have fun with this one. Lionsgate's Blu-ray looks excellent and sounds even better and contains a few extras of merit. Recommended for action movie junkies looking for a quick fix.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.