Trying to decipher the myriad plot twists of Safe is a lot like attempting to eat your own head: You won't be able to do it, and passersby will point and laugh if you try. The new movie is the latest entry into the Jason-Statham-attacking-everything-that-moves subgenre. But unlike most of the other brainless fare to which the actor has lent his considerable thew, this film seems hell-bent on pummeling the audience with confusion.
The premise of Safe is, on its surface, straight and clean: Statham stars as Luke Wright, an ex-NYPD superstar who, on a whim, rescues a precocious 12-year-old Chinese girl he's never met before. Since the child is being chased by Russian mobsters, Triad gangsters, and crooked cops through the mean streets of Brooklyn, Wright's act of spontaneous altruism commences a citywide mad-dash of headshots and roundhouse kicks. The stage appears set for a by-the-numbers, harmless thriller in which we get to sit back and watch Jason Statham kick the shit out of nameless, unsympathetic henchmen.
If only writer-director Boaz Yakin had been content to stick with the formula. Instead, the film devolves into a needlessly complicated and bizarrely recounted story that ties together organized crime, New York politics, the War on Terror, human trafficking, and covert extrajudicial hit-jobs into one long stretch of garbled dialogue. By the time the credits roll, it's exceedingly difficult to remember who blackmailed whom, which criminals were in bed with which government officials, and who exacted revenge upon whom. What it all boils down to is that greedy CIA agents control everything in New York City, from the elite police squads to the mayor's mansion.
Out of his bungled script, Boaz Yakin did manage to set one new standard: He created the shallowest, sloppiest, most incoherent critique of American power that has ever emerged from Statham-based cinema. The final product looks something like what you'd get if you merged The Trials of Henry Kissinger with Tony Scott's Domino.