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Film / Safe (2012)

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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 Safe (1995), directed by Todd Haynes and starring Julianne Moore or the 2018 thriller mystery series Safe (2018).

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 admission that he and Tremello intend to retire to a villa in Bali, seem to imply that he really IS the mayor's boyfriend.
  • Anti-Climax: 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.
  • 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.
  • Blackmail: At the end, Luke and Mei force the Triad leader to back off by giving him nearly the entire $30 million as repayment (and intend to repay the missing $50k with interest), then warning that Mei can expose his entire operation in an instant if he even thinks of trying to harass them further.
  • 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.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You:
    • Subverted with Mei. The interested parties want her taken alive if possible, but will settle for killing her if necessary as a No MacGuffin, No Winner scenario to maintain the status quo.
    • Luke forces Alex into a Let's Fight Like Gentlemen match by playing coy about where he hid the money and only willing to tell if Alex can beat him in a straight fight. Mei shoots Alex when he's distracted and Luke finishes him off.
  • Catchphrase: "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:
    • The Russians find a guy on Youtube to fight Luke, a professional fighter, and it goes about as well as you expect. Luke accidentally puts the kid up in a coma from a single punch, which he only threw because he wanted the fight to at least look somewhat real.
    • 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 for ratting on them and forcing them to be actual public servants. Luke was secretly a Killer Cop instead, specially hired to kill high profile criminals.
  • 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.
  • Evil Teacher: Mai's corrupt school headmaster tips off the triad gangsters to her talents, and is complicit in her abduction.
  • 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 simple purchase, they'll kill. The idea is to drive him to suicide. It doesn't exactly work out.
    • To force his father's cooperation, Luke threatens to do unspeakable but survivable things to Vasily to make him talk, and then use that information to ruin the Russian mob.
    • Luke also threatens to shoot the mayor in places that won't kill but will make him wish it had.
  • Fingore: Possibly the only action movie to show someone injuring themselves with a ricochet and severing their trigger finger in the process while trying to shoot a lock open.
  • Funny Background Event: Luke backing into the crooked detective with his own car, stopping to fasten Mei's seat belt, then driving into the same guy as he makes his getaway. Both times with the cop in question tumbling over the entire car, visible through the windshield and the rearview mirror. Oh, and the Triads and Russians are shooting at the car and each other the whole time.
  • Good with Numbers: Mei is a mathematical prodigy, and this leads her school headmaster to hand her over to a triad gang-leader.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: The Mafiya kills Luke's wife, and will kill anyone he befriends. Mei works for the Triad because they will kill her mother if she doesn't.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Justified in the case of Mayor Tromello, Uncle Han and Emile, all of whom are strictly non-action villains who never directly interact with Luke.
    • Vassily and Wolf are both released largely unscathed at the end of the film, the latter with some of the cash as compensation for his trouble.
  • 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.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: 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.
  • 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.
  • Parental Substitute: Quan Chang is forced upon Mei as her new "father". Later, Luke doubts if he'll ever be a good father figure to Mei but promises to be her friend until his dying day.
  • 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.
  • Pet the Dog: Mei attempts to cover for an underperforming business, knowing that the Triad will harshly punish it.
  • Photographic Memory: Mei flawlessly remembers any number sequence given to her. The Triads take her because it allows them to keep all their bookkeeping in her head, effectively destroying any paper trail.
  • The Pig-Pen: Partway through the film, Luke gets a shave and a haircut as well as a nice suit but Mei complains that he hasn't washed and still stinks like a homeless man.
  • 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.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Jason Statham is about to shoot you in the crotch.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Subverted, someone tries and just winds up hurting himself with the ricochet.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: Captain Wolf does this in the nightclub, demanding for its occupants to leave.
  • Spotting the Thread: Luke is able to deduce the relevance of the number sequence given to Mei simply by asking a few questions about any irregularities she may have noticed in the sequence.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Luke attempts to throw a fight, but the guy he's up against is so inept that Luke puts him into a coma just from making a half-assed effort to make the fight look good.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: 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 because his opponent is that much of a wimp by comparison. 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).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ling is described as such by Mei because the former gave all the information the Russian Mafia wanted and now they can kill her off.
  • 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