Statham keeps a young friend “Safe” with bone-crunching efficiency

This seems like a serious mismatch. A down-and-out man with nothing
left to live for, and contemplating suicide, teams up with a young
Chinese girl, displaced, whose brilliant mathematical skills are
being exploited by very bad people. These two go up against the
Triads — the Chinese organized crime syndicate — the Russian mob
and corrupt New York Police Department cops.

No chance for these two unlikely allies, right? But wait. The man is
played by Jason Statham. That tilts the odds a little better in their
favor. Thus we have the latest action adventure “Safe.”

Statham plays Luke Wright, who at first is seen as a cage-match
fighter paid to take dives for the benefit of high-stakes gamblers.
When one of his bouts does not go as planned because his foe is a
real stiff, Luke’s life gets turned upside down. A former NYPD cop,
he has no friends in the department because he blew the whistle on
corruption.

Meanwhile, Mei (Catherine Chan) is a young girl whose genius with
numbers and an ability to memorize things quickly leads her to being
plucked from her home in China and sent to New York. There she is
taken in by Han Jiao (James Hong), the head of the Triads, who uses
her gifts to help keep an accounting of the Chinatown businesses.
When she is given a complicated and valuable numerical code to
memorize, she becomes a kidnap target of the Russian mob.

But before the Russians can extract the information from Mei, a
police raid interrupts the proceedings and in the confusion, Mei
slips away and flees to the subway.

There, Luke is about to end it all by diving on the tracks when the
subway train arrives, but when he sees Mei and realizes she is in
trouble, he is renewed with a sense of purpose and comes to the
rescue of the girl.

It takes a while for this story to unfold, and Statham fans no
doubt get antsy, watching him pushed around and humiliated, anxious
to see him get down to some serious bone-crunching business.
When he does, the film’s energy really picks up. Of course we know
there is more to Statham’s Luke than we first see. Turns out he was
part of an elite covert operation of the NYPD that dispensed justice
while suspending due process. In other words, Luke is yet another in
a long line of super-efficient and deadly good guys who gave up that
vicious life only to be drawn back into it.

The script by writer-director Boaz Yakin (“Prince of Persia: The
Sand of Time”) certainly has its plot holes and impractical set-ups,
but one thing he does avoid is resorting to cutesy dialogue between
Luke and Mei. Chan presents Mei as an intelligent but vulnerable girl
without the standard irritating whining and complaining that are a
staple of other rescuees. She is at her best when she deadpans
bulls-eye observations, like saying to Luke: “You’re crazy but you’re
smart.”

The villains in this movie are cookie-cutter bad guys — greedy,
brutal, totally lacking in conscience, led by Robert John Burke as
the sleazy NYPD Capt. Wolf, Anson Mount as the mayor’s
behind-the-scenes muscle Alex Rosen — who was a former colleague of
Luke’s — Reggie Lee as the Triad’s enforcer Quan Chang, and Joseph
Sikora as Vissaly, the sadistic son of the Russian mob leader. At the
top is Chris Sarandon as Mayor Tremello, a blueprint of the
politician with way too much dirt to hide.

Per usual, Statham is at his best when he is pounding foes into
submission or filling them with lead. He may be a nice guy most of
the time, but do not push his buttons.

Coming up
Fathom Events will be presenting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom
of the Opera” on May 21 and “Love Never Dies” on May 23, at 7:30 p.m.
each night. It will be shown at several theaters throughout Southern
California. Go to www.fathomevents.com for a list of theaters
presenting the shows.

Reaching birthday milestones in May:
40: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
50: Bono, Emilio Estevez, David Fincher, Bobcat Goldthwait
60: Christine Baranski, Mr. T, Robert Zemeckis
70: Lainie Kazan
90: Christopher Lee, Bill Macy

Birthdays in May (age in parenthesis)
Adele, 5/5 (24); Will Arnett, 5/4 (42); Carroll Baker, 5/28 (81);
Stephen Baldwin, 5/12 (46); Christine Baranski, 5/2 (60); Barbara
Barrie, 5/23 (81); Annette Bening, 5/29 (54); Richard Benjamin, 5/22
(74); Tom Berenger, 5/31 (62); Polly Bergen, 5/9 (66); Paul Bettany,
5/27 (41); Jason Biggs, 5/12 (34); Theodore Bikel, 5/2 (88); Cate
Blanchett, 5/14 (43); Helena Bonham Cater, 5/26 (46); Bono, 5/10
(50); Bruce Boxleitner, 5/12 (62); Jim Broadbent, 5/24 (63); Pierce
Brosnan, 5/16 (59); Gary Burghoff, 5/24 (69); Gabriel Byrne, 5/12
(62); Naomi Campbell, 5/22 (42); Drew Carey, 5/23 (54); Cher, 5/20
(66); Tommy Chong, 5/24 (74); Chow Yun-Fat, 5/18 (57); George
Clooney, 5/6 (51); Joe Cocker, 5/20 (68); Stephen Colbert, 5/13 (48);
Joan Collins, 5/23 (79); Judy Collins, 5/1 (73); Rita Coolidge, 5/1
(67); Sofia Coppola, 5/14 (41); John Corbett, 5/9 (51); Lindsay
Crouse, 5/12 (64); Ann B. Davis, 5/5 (86); Rosario Dawson, 5/6 (33);
Donovan, 5/10 (74); Keir Dullea, 5/30 (76); Bob Dylan, 5/24 (71);
Clint Eastwood, 5/31 (82); Chris Elliott, 5/31 (52); Enya, 5/17 (51);
Emilio Estevez, 5/12 (50); Melissa Etheridge, 5/29 (51); Rupert
Everett, 5/29 (53); Colin Farrell, 5/31 (36); Tina Fey, 5/31 (42);
Joseph Fiennes, 5/27 (42); David Fincher, 5/10 (50); Albert Finney,
5/9 (86); John Fogerty, 5/28 (67); James Fox, 5/19 (73); Megan Fox,
5/16 (26); Al Franken, 5/21 (61); Anthony Geary, 5/29 (65); Melissa
Gilbert, 5/8 (48); Sharon Gless, 5/31 (69); Bobcat Goldthwait, 5/26
(50); Tony Goldwyn, 5/20 (52); Louis Gossett Jr., 5/27 (76); Pam
Grier, 5/26 (63); Gregory Harrison, 5/31 (62); David Hartman, 5/19
(77); Anne Heche, 5/25 (43); Lauryn Hill, 5/25 (37); Engelbert
Humperdinck, 5/2 (76); Glenda Jackson, 5/9 (76); Janet Jackson, 5/16
(46); LaToya Jackson, 5/29 (56); Keith Jarrett, 5/8 (57); Jewel, 5/23
(38); Billy Joel, 5/9 (63); Dwayne “The Rock: Johnson, 5/2 (40);
Grace Jones, 5/19 (64); Wynonna Judd, 5/30 (48); Lainie Kazan, 5/15
(70); Harvey Keitel, 5/13 (73); David Keith, 5/8 (58); Jamie Kennedy,
5/25 (42); Gladys Knight, 5/28 (68); Patti LaBelle, 5/24 (68);
Christopher Lee, 5/27 (90); Ted Levine, 5/29 (55); Sondra Locke, 5/28
(65); George Lucas, 5/14 (68); Bill Macy, 5/18 (90); Tim McGraw, 5/1
(45); Ian McKellan, 5/25 (73); Kylie Minogue, 5/28 (44); Alfred
Molina, 5/24 (59); Morrissey, 5/22 (53); Robert Morse, 5/18 (91);
Samantha Morton, 5/13 (35); Michael Murphy, 5/5 (74); Mike Myers,
5/25 (49); Stevie Nicks, 5/26 (64); Timothy Olyphant, 5/20 (44);
Michael Palin, 5/5 (69); Chazz Palminteri, 5/15 (61); Robert
Pattison, 5/13 (26); Bill Paxton, 5/17 (57); Bronson Pinchot, 5/20
(53); Priscilla Presley, 5/24 (67); Martha Quinn, 5/11 (53); John C.
Reilly, 5/24 (47); Judge Reinhold, 5/21 (55); Trent Reznor, 5/17
(47); Ving Rhames, 5/12 (53); Don Rickles, 5/8 (86); Tim Roth, 5/14
(51); Kristin Scott-Thomas, 5/24 (52); Pete Seeger, 5/13 (93); Connie
Selleca, 5/25 (57); Brooke Shields, 5/31 (47); Gabourney Sidibe, 5/6
(29); Tori Spelling, 5/16 (39); David Suchet, 5/2 (66); Mr. T, 5/21
(60); Amber Tamblyn, 5/14 (29); Toni Tennille, 5/8 (69); Lea
Thompson, 5/31 (51); Peter Townshend, 5/19 (67); Randy Travis, 5/4
(53); Frankie Valli, 5/3 (75); Clint Walker, 5/30 (85); Bruce Weitz,
5/27 (69); Debra Winger, 5/16 (57); Mare Winningham, 5/16 (53); Steve
Winwood, 5/12 (64); Stevie Wonder, 5/13 (62); Peter Yarrow, 5/31
(76); Robert Zemeckis, 5/14 (60); Anthony Zerbe, 5/20 (76).

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