The Daily Stream: 'Safe' Is Like A Prototype For The 'John Wick' Franchise

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)The MovieSafeWhere You Can Stream It: HuluThe Pitch: Jason Statham is a disgraced cop turned cage fighter (see, this is cool already) who seeks some sort of redemption by protecting a child genius (Catherine Chan) who acts as a human computer for the Chinese Triads.Why It's Essential Viewing: Jason Statham has made a lot of movies where he essentially plays the same character: a brooding, angry, scowling guy who punches people. And while there's nothing wrong with that, a lot of his movies tend to blend together as a result. But Safe is a standout, primarily because it's stylish as hell and features fight scenes coordinated by Chad Stahelski, the stuntman turned filmmaker who would go on to helm the John Wick franchise. 

Before John Wick there was Safe. While the 2012 Jason Statham actioner doesn't share writers or directors with the Wick series, it does have Cha Stahelski serving as stunt coordinator. As a result, the fights in this film look a lot like the fights in the Wick series – brutal, fast, and immensely entertaining. But the Wick comparisons go beyond that. Both Safe and the John Wick series focus on an ass-kicker drawn back into the game, both have the Russian mafia as antagonists, and both deal with elaborate, criminal underworlds that feel like exercises in world-building.

Statham plays Luke Wright, a former cop turned cage fighter. While Luke can clearly kick everyone's ass, and eventually does, he deliberately takes dives in fights. But when Luke steps into the ring for his latest fight, he accidentally puts his unskilled opponent in the hospital. This is bad news for Luke, because a Russian mobster had a lot of money bet on that fight, and now he wants Luke dead.

In the midst of all this we might the film's other lead character, Mei (Catherine Chan), a child prodigy who is kidnapped from China and sent to New York to work for the Chinese Triads. Mei is so smart that the Triads essentially use her as a human computer, storing all sorts of info in her mind to avoid a paper trail. But other mobsters – including the Russian mob Luke is in trouble with – want to get their hands on this genius child too, especially because she has the combination to a safe containing a fortune tucked away in her noggin.

Through a series of convoluted actions, Luke and Mei cross paths, and Luke decides to protect the kid from, well, everyone. Even crooked cops that Luke used to work with get mixed up in things. And all of this sets up a film that becomes a non-stop exercise in watching Statham brutally kill people. There's a moral ambiguity here that's both shocking and kind of refreshing – the film makes no attempt to paint Luke as some noble hero. Yes, he's protecting a kid, but that protection leads him to storm into public places and shoot people in the head without provocation. And when he's not doing that, he's punching and kicking his way through nameless thugs.

Director Boaz Yakin ramps up the style, using quick cuts and other trickery that elevates Safe above the many other generic action flicks Statham has made over the years. It really feels like a prototype for what would become the John Wick series. It's not quite as good as those movies, but it doesn't disappoint.