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 preposterously enjoyable—or enjoyably preposterous—action-thriller, Statham headlines as disgraced NYPD supercop-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, then wise. Safe 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.
It's spring, the season of Statham and gunfire.
Opens Fri., April 27 at Pacific Place and other theaters. Rated R. 94 minutes.