If you are an action fan looking for hard core entertainment that is rough and raw, you can safely bet on Safe. What an amazing title! One word that has a myriad meanings in this well-crafted and intricate story filled with intense drama, nail-biting suspense, mystery and laced with a deadly sense of dark humour.
Plotted with Hitchcockian precision, this fast-paced revenge tale and crime thriller delivers what it promises. There are very few action stars who have the charm, finesse and unique style of Jason Statham; on the one hand he is the lone ranger who everyone wants to be pals with; and on the other a deadly killer who should be avoided.
In Safe, Statham's duality is utilised brilliantly through his connection and interaction with Catherine Chan, who plays a 10-year-old Chinese maths prodigy, and forces him to take action as well as be passively resistant.
A man who has nothing to lose
Statham plays a man who has nothing to lose, whose life is catapulted into action by a girl who is lost in a world of crime, corruption and deceit. What's really great about Statham is that he is so cool and calm during some of the most hectic and intense action scenes, you don't mind if the feeling creeps in that you've seen it all before - and you most definitely won't mind watching it over and over again.
Great action heroes are not defined by their action, but by their humanity. Statham might seem to have the armour of a fearless warrior, but it's his vulnerability that reveals a sensitive and compassionate man; there's a gentleness and softer side that lurks within the deadly killing machine that is alluring, and allows the audience to have empathy, despite his brutal and bloody actions.
Who is Safe?
During the film you constantly wonder who really is Safe, and what the consequences of being safe are. Safe is the kind of action film in which you need a fleet of ambulances to get rid of the bodies; it's the kind of film Tarantino would give his life to make and the film Hitchcock would have made if he were still alive.
It is interesting to note that Boaz Yakin, who wrote and directed Safe, head-hunted producer Lawrence Bender for his film; Bender has produced some of the most original and successful action films in history, including Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and 2 and Inglorious Bastards.
The teaming of Yakin and Bender is a match made in action heaven.
Great and memorable action films that shake you to core physically and emotionally are a rare breed. With Safe, it's good to have an action film that doesn't pretend to be something it's not.
Set in New York City, against the backdrop of corrupt police officers and malicious gangsters, Safe plays like a contemporary western in which gunslingers battle it out.
Relentless and riveting, nothing and no one is safe. It's like a killer runaway train from its punchy opening scene to emotional finale; it never lets go and, even at its resolution, you are not completely sure if you are safe.
If you are looking for kick-ass action and some awesome chase-and-fight sequences, Safe is the kind of action you can escape into.
Behind the scenes
Lawrence Bender has produced some of the most original and successful action films in history, including Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and 2 and Inglorious Bastards. So when Boaz Yakin, director of Remember The Titans, decided to make an action film, there was no producer he wanted more than Bender.
"Lawrence and I made Fresh and A Price Above Rubies together," said Yakin, who wrote the screenplay to Safe. "It had been almost 10 years since we worked together. I was looking for producers and Lawrence got interested, and we decided to work together again."
Bender was also enthusiastic about Yakin's script: "Boaz has a great style as a writer and he is a wonderful director. So when he told me he wanted to make an action film that had an intense emotional throughline, I couldn't wait to read the script."
Finding a reason to live
Established as an action writer - Yakin wrote the screenplays for The Punisher and Clint Eastwood's The Rookie - he'd never directed an action movie. After he made the sobering, emotionally exhausting Death In Love in 2008, Yakin was ready for another go at the action genre. "I wanted to make something that had a broader appeal, so I thought - Let me see if I can write one of these scripts the way I used to write when I was starting out. As the story developed, I started to identify with the main character quite a bit; the process of pulling himself out of a dark place, putting one foot in front of the other and finding a reason to live and connect to life again."
To Yakin, Safe's emotional heart is the driving force of the film. "The idea of directing an action film was interesting, but unless there's a strong emotional motivation for the action, it can be a lot like directing traffic," Yakin said, smiling. "Action is very technical and detail oriented. In a lot of action films, you're really just waiting for the pyrotechnics. I wanted every action scene in this film to come from an emotional need in the character."
When it came to casting the lead, Bender and Yakin were both interested in Jason Statham. "I had met Jason and he was just a great guy, and I wanted to work with him," said Bender. "I've been so impressed with how dynamic he is, since I first saw him. What a big presence he has on screen. He has this unwavering authenticity to his characters." Bender took the script to Statham, who read it and liked it.
"Lawrence was really instrumental in getting Jason involved and helping to put the movie together," acknowledged Yakin. "This is a film in which Jason is in his wheel house," he continued. "It's an action film; he plays a tough guy, but this is a much more emotional and vulnerable character than he usually plays. That was the most important thing I discussed with Jason when we started out. I wanted to know that he was excited and open to playing someone who's hurt and vulnerable."
Daniel Dercksen has been a film and theatre journalist in South Africa the past 30 years and as a trainer and educator has presented regular workshops in scriptwriting and creative writing during the past 17 years.
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