Judging by the cramped conditions under which I watched this film at the local Odeon (less than 60 seats), no one has much faith in the commercial potential of Jason Statham's latest film. I can't say I'm surprised, since even by Jason's standards, this is one of his more run-of-the-mill movies. Essentially it involves him in a one man war against all the bad people in New York. And there are a lot of them.
The excuse for this rampage is twofold. On the one hand, Statham or Luke Wright as he is called here, is an ex-cop turned cage fighter whose wife is murdered by the Russian mafia because he failed to take a dive in a fight. As a result, he is wracked with guilt because he feels guilty about her death; and is looking for the right time and place to off himself. It is about to be under a subway train, when he sees a Chinese girl on the run, and decides to save her from – guess who – more Russian mafia guys, and that's reason number 2 for the rampage.
In an overlong prologue, we have not only heard about Luke's backstory, but we have also been told about Mei, the Chinese girl abducted from her country, and employed under duress to bypass computers; because she has a photographic memory and can store information mimetically. Having run away from her captors (the Russians who kidnapped her from the Chinese – keep up, it's complicated), her only friend is Luke, since the NYPD seem to be in on the general corruption.
Of course, this being a bog standard action movie, none of the plot really matters. The point of the exercise is to make sure that Jason/Luke kicks butt on a regular basis, pausing only to shoot a few disposable bad guys, or assure Mei of his undying devotion. Even as a fan of Statham's, I am hard put to wax very enthusiastic about this film. It has the merit of brevity and offering what you'd expect, but somehow it lacks a larger ambition, a sense of humour or an iota of originality.
Having seen The Raid, my feeling is that all action movies this year, and possibly for some years to come, will be judged by that extremely high standard. Safe, by those standards is both safe and a little sorry.
By Phil Raby
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