Safe — 4/10

SAFE (2012, Boaz Yakin): 4/10

I’ve given up trying to figure out Yakin, the guy who started his career off with FRESH, a monumentally fascinating indie about a Yojimbo-like chess prodigy in the mean streets of New York getting revenge against the drug dealers who accidentally killed a 12 year-old girl on a basketball court. (That basketball court scene haunts me to this day, and was — along with Jean de Segonzac’s photography on HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET — a key influence on my student film). Then he went on to do stuff like the saccharin sports triumph REMEMBER THE TITANS, and was a screenwriter on PRINCE OF PERSIA and DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS.

Now he has directed (and written) SAFE, a brutal exploitation thriller that matter-of-factly explores such racist stereotypes as Asians-who-are-good-at-math and Russians-who-are-bald-and-wear-gold-chains-and-are-gangsters. Jason Statham plays some sort of ex-super-agent trained killer-turned-cage-fighter who decides to respond to the murder of his pregnant wife by killing nearly every human being in Manhattan. The violence on display here is overtly nihilistic, without a hint of whimsy or humor to the tone serving to undercut the seriousness of death. The script is uproariously stupid, but Yakin doesn’t care about that at all — he wanted to make another New York movie, and there’s a lot about Manhattan in this film. Not that it amounts to anything, but NYC is a character far more interesting than Mei, the young Chinese abductee at the center of Statham’s rampage, and also one of the worst child actresses to grace the screen in some time. Catherine Chan could rival Rafe Spall for Worst Performance of 2012.

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