As the title of Boaz Yakin’s testosterone-fuelled game of cat and mouse intimates, we’re in familiar territory here with hard man Jason Statham.
‘Safe’ is bland and overcooked comfort food for the Derbyshire-born actor’s legions of admirers, who have thrilled to the energetic fight sequences and explosive shoot-outs in ‘The Transporter’ and ‘Crank’ films.
It’s more of the same bone-crushing mayhem, transplanted to the mean streets of New York where Statham gleefully tosses out the salty one-liners (“I’ve been in restaurants all night – all I got served was lead!”) in his trademark growl as he takes a breather between pummelling myriad nefarious henchmen to a bloody pulp.
Unusually, there is no token love interest and the actor keeps his tailored shirt and suit firmly on.
To compensate for female fans, in Yakin’s film he intimates that he’s a big softie at heart by acting as a human shield for a terrified 10-year-old girl, who desperately needs his help.
Statham strikes a permanent scowl as disgraced former NYPD officer Luke Wright, who was betrayed by dirty cops in his precinct under the control of Captain Wolf (Robert John Burke).
Doomed to live on the streets like a hobo and forego any personal ties because anyone he befriends ends up in the morgue, Luke has learned to fade into the background.
During a failed suicide attempt on a Metro platform, he encounters mathematical genius, Mei (Catherine Chan), who is being used by Han Jiao (James Hong) as a counting machine to keep track of the Triads’ assets.
“Computers are annoying. They leave trails that are so easy to follow,” Han explains to his pint-sized protegee, who must do as she is told to avoiding a beating from intimidating right-hand man, Quan Chang (Reggie Lee).
When the Russian mob snatches Mei in order to steal the Triads’ dirty secrets, Luke intervenes, all guns blazing.
Little does he realise that Mei also holds the key to the upcoming re-election of Mayor Tremello (Chris Sarandon), who is a political pawn at the mercy of his conniving chief of staff, Alex Rosen (Anson Mount).
‘Safe’ will appeal to devotees of Statham’s other work, ramping up the bone-crunching violence as the leading man cuts a swathe through the Big Apple.
He catalyses pleasing screen chemistry with Chan, who is old enough to put her co-star well and truly in his place, when the flimsy script allows.
Action sequences careens towards preposterousness at every turn as the leading man takes on every heavily armed bad guy within a five mile radius of Manhattan with only fists and nifty footwork to protect him.
Set your expectations low and ‘Safe’ will meet them.
Star Rating: 2½