Friday Fisticuffs: Safe (2012)

safe poster I think I just fell in love with a movie and it’s called Safe. Of course, being a huge Jason Statham fan, I wanted to check this flick out with a quickness after seeing it had been added to Netflix Instant. And, as it turns out, it might actually be the quintessential Statham movie. Not only does it include the kind of ass-kickery you’ve come to expect from franchises like Crank and The Transporter, but it’s also got some pretty sick driving, gun play and the dramatic gravitas I think Statham brings to every role, but is more well-featured in films like The Bank Job, War and even Blitz. I fully believe that Statham is a really fantastic actor who also happens to be awesome at kicking dudes in the face, so the latter wins out over the former. Safe happens to be the the kind of film that lets him show off his many facets.

This time around, Statham plays a one-time cop turned cage fighter who doesn’t take a fall when he’s supposed to and winds up peeving off the Russian mob. They kill his wife and tell him he better go on the run, but add that they’ll be watching and will kill anyone who’s even remotely nice to him, a threat they make good on. Meanwhile, there’s a young girl named Mei in China who’s super good at math and winds up getting kidnapped by the mob. The mob boss, played of course by James Hong, sent her over to the States because her memory doesn’t leave a trace like a computer would. She gets thrown into this crazy gangster world which is not easy on her. The Russian mob finds out about her and starts a war with the Chinese to get her and whatever secrets her brain holds. As it happens, Statham meets Wei in the subway and decides to keep her safe.

When I heard that Safe was about Statham protecting a kid, I worried that it would be pretty boring, like one of those awful levels in a video game where you have to constantly watch out for some useless person, but it was actually a lot more interesting than that. When he tells her to hide, she actually does! When he tells her to run, she runs. It felt like a much more realistic take on the idea than you tend to see in these kinds of things.

And the story’s pretty solid. In addition to all the players I’ve mentioned, you’ve also got a group of dirty cops in play. Statham used to work with them, but didn’t want to be dirty himself so he tried to do the right thing which only lost him his job. As we discover from the mayor, though, Statham was brought in in the wake of 9-11 to be a kind of under the radar super cop who would take care of NYC’s more nefarious elements. I thought that was a cool little touch, something I didn’t expect. While all this is going on and Statham does his best to take down the various mob factions, he runs into a guy who had, basically, the same super cop job as him. I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a real drop down drag out fight between them, but what wound up happening felt a lot more real.

Like I said above, this movie lets Statham do everything he’s good at while still keeping everything grounded. This isn’t Commando or something where emotions rarely come into play. Take the scene where he comes home to find his wife dead, other filmmakers would have had him immediately get into a fight, but instead he’s devastated by what he just discovered and basically gives them the opportunity to kill him. By bobbing when you expect it to weave, Safe offers a good deal of surprises for action movies fans while still offering plenty in the way of hand to hand combat, shoot outs and chase scenes.

I did a little looking into director Boaz Yakin’s filmography and saw a couple interesting bits. First off, he also directed Remember The Titans, which is a pretty great movie if memory serves. Before that he was a writer though, penning the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie, the Charlie Sheen/Clint Eastwood joint The Rookie and also From Dusk Til Dawn 2, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and Prince Of Persia, a pretty ecclectic group to say the least!

Halloween Scene: Fright Night (2011)

I know a lot of people love the original Fright Night, I’m just not one of them. I don’t hate the movie and know I’ve seen it a time or two, but the last time I tried watching it on Netflix Instant however long ago, I turned it off because I was bored. I can’t remember now why I was bored, but I just wasn’t interested and dipped out. So, when I heard the news that it was getting remake, I didn’t really care and not just because I think people who get all bent out of shape about remakes need something real in their lives to worry about instead of movies.

Anyway, I was curious. I heard good things and the cast  is pretty stacked with Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Tennant. So, I bumped it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue when October hit. And, man, did I have a good time watching this movie.

The story is kind of a sped up combination of Lost Boys and Rear Window as Yelchin’s character comes to terms with the very real truth that his neighbor Jerry is actually a vampire. His buddy Mintz-Plasse tries to tell him and the he tries to convince his mom (Collette) and girlfriend (the wonderful Imogen Poots) to varying degrees of success until the truth can no longer be denied. You’ve also got Tennant playing an occult loving Vegas magician in the vein of Criss Angel.

Like I said, I don’t remember much about the original flick, but I seem to remember the structure of this film being pretty similar. But, this time around things move FAST. I wasn’t watching the clock, but I want to say by the 30 minute mark we knew Farrell was a vampire, a few people had been killed/turned and Yelchin has learned about Farrell by sneaking into his house. I don’t know if this flick would work as well for a novice horror fan, but for one who’s seen a lot of these movies, it moves along at a great clip. For that alone I’d dig this flick, but you add in a stellar cast, some mostly good effects (friggin’ CGI blood splatter needs to go away forever) and a solid budget and I’m all in for this movie.

Halloween Scene: Child’s Play (1988)

If you were to ask the average person over 25 to name five slashers with their own franchises you’d probably end up with a list that includes Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and…Chucky. When I started my horror odyssey so many years ago, I was way more interested in those first four than the fifth. In fact, I completely disregarded the Child’s Play series as a bunch of goofy movies with a doll trying to kill people. I’ve always had a problem with killer doll/toy stories because you can either melt them or they’re magic and you’re screwed. So, these flicks were never a priority, especially after seeing bits and pieces of the sequels on TV here and there and not being impressed.

But, since it’s a somewhat long-running and popular horror series–and the first movie’s on Netflix Instant, though not the rest–I figured it would make for perfect Halloween Scene fodder. And you know what? It wound up surprising me. Much like the Freddy flicks, the Chuky movies started out pretty serious and then bought into their own hype, making Chucky an over the top wiseacre.

As you probably know, Chucky started out as a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray who gets gutshot in a toy store and winds up doing a voodoo incantation over a Good Guys doll, thus transferring his soul. He winds up in the home of a young boy and his mother, slowly wreaking havoc in the process.

What surprised me about the movie is how long they play up the mystery as to whether the kid is actually nuts or not. He’s always saying the doll told him things, but you never see it. I don’t know if I ever really bought the idea that it could be the kid, though. I mean, obviously I knew the story going in, but I also didn’t think the kid showed enough creepy tendencies to be a murderer. The weirdest thing you see him do is make breakfast for his mom that includes lots of sugary cereal with extra scoops of sugar and completely burnt toast with an ice cream scoop’s worth of Country Crock. Heck, he looks scarier on the French poster above than he ever does in the flick.

By keeping the truth a secret, the film also builds the creepiness and withholds the wisecracks and profanity from the murderous doll until the end, when the mom is in on what’s going on and Chucky’s on a rampage. I’ll even say that the movie has some good gore/effects scenes in that end series of events, especially when SPOILER the doll’s all burnt up. I had a My Buddy as a kid and would constantly kick the crap out of it, so I had no problem seeing this facsimile getting all messed up.

I’m not sure how the rest of the movies go. I doubt there’s a Dream Warriors in the bunch that stands apart as an awesome movie on it’s own, but I’m a lot more willing to give them a look now that I know that they at least come from an interesting source.