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Safe: Jason Statham Returns for Enjoyable Skull Cracking

The pulpy scenarios change, but squinty action-hero Jason Statham remains chiseled, coiled, and ready to hurl himself into scores of grimacing baddies like a goddamn human cannonball. In writer-director Boaz Yakin's Safe, a preposterously enjoyable—or enjoyably preposterous—action-thriller, Statham headlines as disgraced NYPD super-cop-turned-small-time-cage-fighter Luke, whose refusal to take a dive gets his wife murdered by the Russian mafia. Banished to a remorseful life of homeless shelters and paranoia, our chrome-domed badass crawls up from rock bottom for some vengeance (read: justification to open arteries all over Manhattan) when he stumbles upon the film's MacGuffin: a 10-year-old Chinese prodigy (Catherine Chan) who has memorized a valuable numerical code. Protecting the young girl against a multifront underworld war of Russians, their Chinese Triad rivals, and the crooked-cop crew who tarnished his name for not taking payouts, Luke's self-imposed, redemptive mission fits snugly in his portrayer's cinematic wheelhouse—cracking skulls and then wise. The movie is neither as franchise-friendly as The Transporter nor as boorishly experimental as Crank: High Voltage, but Yakin's sleek, visually witty direction (a static, inside-the-car shot of a thug getting run over twice nabs two laughs) elevates his undeniably dopey script.

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