Luke Wright (Jason Statham) is having a bad time of things lately. Having left his previous job as a law enforcement officer under a cloud due to the corruption of his colleagues, he took up cage fighting, but in a bout where he was paid to lose, he accidentally hospitalised his weaker opponent. Now the Russian gangsters who had a lot riding on the match have arrived at his home and killed his wife in revenge, and as if that were not bad enough have promised to murder anyone he so much as looks as if he's getting friendly with. The outlook seems bleak...
This Safe was not to be confused with the Todd Haynes movie where Julianne Moore became allergic to modern life, although Statham's character here appeared to be having a similarly awful experience in the current world, that was until a little girl skipped into his life and shone sunlight into his misery. But not in a Disney movie way, as she was suffering too, and as if the universe thinks they would both be better off pooling their resources to get by in the society they exist in with some difficulty, Luke can finally find some self-worth when their paths cross. The girl was Chinese, called Mei (Catherine Chan), and had a memory for numbers.
Which the Triads think is perfect for their purposes, not trusting computers to work out and carry their sums when they can rely on this prodigy, taken away from her mother at a tender age and a year later is in New York City, pressed into service by head baddie Uncle Han (James Hong, somewhat inevitably). All she has to do is memorise this string of figures and take them to a contact across the city, but on the way the car transporting her is ambushed and she is kidnapped by, what do you know, the same Russian gangsters who were intimidating Luke at the beginning of the movie. However, in the following hubbub, she manages to get away and winds up at the subway station where Luke is contemplating suicide.
Once he notices Mei, and the fact that the nasty men are chasing her, the scene is set for both him getting even with his tormentors and making things right for the girl, though there were various convolutions to deal with before the grand finale. Safe appeared to be aimed at an international audience, so not only did you have the Brit Statham biffing and bashing his way through the evildoers, but there was a lot of subtitled Russian and Mandarin to appeal to the lucrative markets in the territories which spoke those languages, though as almost all the characters who spoke anything other than English were bad guys, maybe that appeal was up for debate (however Statham speaks Russian here and obviously Chen speaks Mandarin).
Not that there were no other antagonists here, and they were American agents, the ones Luke left behind who are now encouraging him to kill himself, so really it was a three-way confusion of power strategies our hero had to work with and with any luck overcome. For fans of the star, any reservations that here was yet another action movie tough guy getting in touch with his softer side by appearing with a small child could put away their grumblings for this combination was quite successful, with nothing getting too cutesy or aiming for the dreaded Kindergarten Cop-style funny bone. If the strain of finding something new to do with this combination was not exactly obscured, at least the action sequences had a near-hysterical kineticism such was their frenzy, which at times made them hard to work out what was going on until you just went with them, accepting Statham was crunching bones and firing weapons, doing his best to win the day for truth, justice and, er, some vague international law. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh.