On the Jason Statham spectrum of bonkers action movies, Safe is not an exercise in pure craziness like The Transporter or Crank. But the picture is a solid, entertaining, well-paced popcorn flick with plenty of good action sequences and satisfying fight choreography. What's more, despite employing an easy-to-mess-up premise involving the most volatile of plot devices (i.e., a child), a film that never strives to be particularly artful or sophisticated still manages to avoid such annoying clichés as saccharine cuteness and smart-aleck one-liners.
Statham plays Luke Wright, a former elite, badass NYC cop, who was ousted from the force and nearly killed for exposing that his corrupt comrades were playing both sides of a feud between the Russian and Chinese mafias. He's now the best-looking homeless guy in New York, and having lost his job, wife, and home, he's considering tossing himself in front of a subway train when he spies a ten-year-old Chinese girl ducking an intimidating collection of thugs who just happen to be speaking Russian. Before he knows it, Luke's MMA-style skills are all coming back to him as he rescues the girl from their clutches and embarks on a 1000-bullet mission all over the city, first in the name of protecting an innocent child, and as the plot unfolds, in the name of taking down both crime syndicates and the dirty cops who screwed him over in an ass-kicking expedition that goes all the way to the mayor's office.
Director Boaz Yakin knows better than to think he's helming The Professional here. What he's got is a talented and charismatic action lead and a script that follows a proud tradition of enjoyable B-movie fare. What Yakin does with these materials is craft his film with the utmost competence and efficiency, never allowing the pacing to slow down, the mood to get campy, or the plot to get convoluted. Safe lives up to its name in more ways than the script alludes to, as the title refers not just to the elements of the story, but to what action fans looking for a night's entertainment can expect: a safe bet.