Jason Statham, with his beady-eyed, I’ll-die-harder-than-Bruce-Willis magnetism, has spent his career walking the line between being an accomplished A-list actor and a pitiless B-movie ruffian. Safe, his latest, is a perfect distillation of that high-versus-low, art-versus-genre divide. Statham’s Luke Wright is a former New York cop and present-day cage fighter who blows a rigged bout (he was told to go down but didn’t) and finds himself a target of Russian mobsters. They murder his family and promise to hunt him down when he least expects it. What this requires, of course, is for him to get mean in return — and he does, in places like a ritzy restaurant, a Russian Mafia bar, and a Chinatown disco, where the table-flipping, bottle-smashing violence is made to look slightly outré by unfolding in front of major mobs of terrified civilians. These scenes try hard to evoke the insanely over-the-top style of John Woo, but they’re really your basic raw-meat revenge.
Safe, however, also wants to be, you know, a real movie. It was written and directed by Boaz Yakin, who made Remember the Titans, and he teams Luke up with a 12-year-old math genius, Mei (Catherine Chan), who’s been kidnapped by the Chinese Mob. The linking of Mr. Kickass and a precocious preteen girl recalls The Professional, only that film did something with its fanciful matchup. Safe has more action than intrigue (or logic), and it’s boilerplate vicious. It may satisfy Statham’s fans, but they — like he — would do well to enlarge their expectations. C+