Film: Safe (2012)

aka: Safe

Safe is a 2012 action film starring Jason Statham and Catherine Chan.

Luke Wright (Statham) is a garbageman and cage fighter who's a little too good at his job; one night, he's put up against a kid with no fight experience and knocks the kid into a coma with one punch. This loses a lot of people a lot of money, including the Russian mob, who kill his wife and put him on the street as a homeless man.

Mei (Chan) is a math prodigy in Shanghai who comes to the attention of the Triads. Instead of using computers to transfer large amounts of financial information, they find it's more sensible to use Mei, who can memorize large random numbers at a glance and keep track of their operations in her head.

A year later, the Russians and the Chinese go to war in New York City over information that only Mei knows. Upon seeing her running from the Russians, Luke takes a hand, and then the kicking happens.

Do not confuse this film with the 1995 drama of the same title directed by Todd Haynes and starring Julianne Moore.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Alex. It's possible that Luke's reference to him as Mayor Tremello's "boyfriend" is meant as a taunt, but Alex's comment that Tremello is "a better catch" than Luke's late wife, and admittance that he and Tremello have a villa in Bali, seem to imply that he really IS the mayor's boyfriend.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Luke and Mei.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The first thing Luke does after taking out the first group of Russians? Buys a nice suit with the contents of their wallets.
  • Brick Joke: Luke gets pickpocketed by a guy early in the film. Later, when another guy bumps into him in the same way as before, he checks to see if he still has his wallet.
  • Catch Phrase: "Good/Bad business" for Mei, depending on how the situation will end.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Luke's Establishing Character Moment is (accidentally) putting a guy into a coma in an MMA fight.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Subverted. Several gangsters that take refuge behind a table are just easier targets for Luke and his machine gun.
  • Crapsack World: Mei is the only character in the movie that isn't some kind of scumbag. Even Luke is a former killer, albeit one with official sanction from the mayor.
  • Curbstomp Battle: In the beginning, Luke gets the snot beaten out of him in the ring, by mobsters, and by dirty cops. Once he gets dangerous, he flips this completely on its head.
  • Dirty Cop: Almost every cop that comes onscreen is either dirty or dies ten seconds later. Luke is the only cop who wasn't dirty, and that earned him the hatred of the entire force.
  • Double Meaning Title: Safe most obviously refers to Luke keeping Mei safe, but later in the movie it's clear that it's referring to the fact that the code is a combination to, well, a safe.
  • Driven to Suicide: Luke, early in the movie. He went to the subway and planned on throwing himself on the tracks until he found something Worth Living For.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Vasily's plan for Luke is simple. They'll keep someone trailing Luke, and anyone that he interacts with on a level above that of a simple purchase, they'll kill. The idea is to drive him to suicide. It doesn't exactly work out.
  • Good with Numbers: Mei
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: The Mafiya kill Luke's wife, and will kill anyone he befriends. Mei works for the Triad because they will kill her mother if she doesn't.
  • Kick the Dog: In the film's opening minutes: Luke, already feeling extremely guilty over putting a kid in a coma, comes home to find that his wife has been brutally murdered, told that she was pregnant, and given a Fate Worse Than Death (see above) rather than the bullet in the head he was expecting.
  • Living MacGuffin: Everyone wants Mei for the information she has in her head.
  • The Mafiya: One of the factions that want Mei.
  • Manly Tears: Possibly the first movie Jason Statham is seen crying.
  • The Penance: Luke lets himself get beaten to a pulp in cage fights to atone for his numerous kills and shady dealings as an cop/wetworks expert.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Luke hires a streetwalker to pose as his wife so he will seem less out-of-place when entering a certain restaurant, then sends her away before the violence begins.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Possibly the only action movie to show someone injuring themselves with a ricochet while trying to shoot a lock open.
    • The final fight between Luke and Alex sets them up as equals, and seems to be about to offer an all-out badass brawl, but it turns out that Alex forgot that his Living MacGuffin could pick up the gun he just put down and shoot him.
    • Mei shoots Alex having presumably never handled a gun before. Not only is she barely able to hit him (she fires twice and the first shot misses entirely), but the recoil of the gun makes her fall over backwards.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Subverted, someone tries and just winds up hurting himself with the ricochet.
  • Stuffed In The Fridge: Luke's wife is killed as punishment for him not throwing a fight. As was the homeless man at the shelter he was in.
  • Throwing the Fight: The one in-timeline example of this trope is subverted: Luke fails rather than refuses to throw the fight. Implied to have been played straight many times in the past.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: One of the four major factions (the others being The Mafiya, Dirty Cops, and Luke).
  • Worth Living For: Protecting Mei is what stops Luke from killing himself early in the movie.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Or as Mei calls it, "good business." She's quickly realized that when someone outlives their usefulness, they get killed. She's not wrong.

Alternative Title(s):

Safe