The Brit Brutalizer Stays Deadly But Also Vulnerable In Safe
by Brad Balfour
With a voice that’s a cross between surly hooligan and Brit urbane, English action star Jason Statham expands his oeuvre in his latest film, Safe, while staying true to form. He kills; he bashes; he slashes, maims and mangles all the way while showing a touch of tenderness and almost a love for a little 10-year-old Chinese orphan who happens to be a math genius and smart-mouthed survivor.
Caught between bullets spewed by Russian gangsters, the Chinese mob and corrupt police, Statham plays a surreptitious police enforcer turned pariah turned avenging angel as he keeps this young girl alive and wreaks havoc among the bad guys.
Director Boaz Yakin strays a far distance from his previous film, Death in Love (a twisted post-Holocaust memoir starring Josh Lucas), to make this NY-based action callback to films like Death Wish.
Somehow the film didn’t have as much noise and bluster as some of Statham’s other films (such as the Transporter series), or those where he clashes with Jet Li and Clive Owen, but it does have a faux New York (most of it was shot in Philly) and a great appreciation of the criminal underground.
Now, thanks to its recent DVD/Blu-Ray release there’s this chance to re-appreciate his kicking butt on these crime cabals.
So if you didn’t get enough of Jason playing his very Jason-ness in Expendables 2, here’s another chance to revel in his unique brand of cinematic MMA (that mixed-martial arts for the un-initiated). In a fast paced Q&A staged at the time of the film theatrical release Statham gives it to a small roundtable of fans. Or, as he put it in his own inimitable style, “Fire away!”
You said somewhere that it was a breath of fresh air working with someone new to the industry. Did that affect your performance?
No, whoever you’re working with you feed off each other’s energies. If it’s a good one, like with Catherine [Chan], then it works really well. You’re only as good as the person you’re opposite. I’m afraid that’s the truth.
What was it like the first time you met Catherine?
We had to meet in a very adult way and I think that’s what makes the relationship very sweet. She’s a very grown up girl. She’s way above her years. We talk to each other in a very simple way and it works really well.
Did you have time to meet her before the filming started?
They cast the film and we had a little get together and sometimes a little rehearsal. Boaz is a very experienced filmmaker and he does the things he needs to give her the confidence and it works that way.
Did the script let you take a different, more emotional, approach?
That [emotion] was an important part of the story. The fact that his wife gets brutally murdered by the Russian mafia and it just so happens that these are the thugs chasing poor old Catherine down the subway platform, people wanna see these people meet their maker.
Your character shows a lot more of a vulnerable side.
Boaz and Lawrence Bender, who’s a great producer, said to me that I’ve never really done anything like this. You must acknowledge the fact that this has all the bells and whistles of something you do really well, but it has so much more underneath. He said it’s something we’d love to have you do. It’s definitely a side I never get to play. Vulnerability is not something that’s usually ticked on the front of the script.
Did you prepare for the role by talking to someone that’s homeless or had lost a spouse?
I’m not a whippersnapper. I’ve met people that have gone through loss and you can understand how painful that is. I’ve seen a few homeless people in my time. Living in London most of life you get to rub shoulders with them in the early hours. So I’m not completely naïve to that world.
Another twist to the film was that scene where your wife was killed and you showed restraint. There’s a different sense of timing to this film – it doesn’t happen like some other Jason Statham films – it catches you off guard.
My hat is well and truly tipped to Boaz because he is the writer and the director, and at the end of the day he’s the editor. He’s the man that puts the story together. So construction of where and when these moments happen is very much in his control and it seems like he did it the right way.
But a lot of the humor seemed like it had to come from you.
We said a few funny things, and a lot of the times he’d [Boaz] say that was terrible. But along the line something stuck. I’ll say it again; Boaz is quite a funny writer. He’s responsible for all of the humor. Delivery I obviously have to take care of, but the humor is in the writing.
Were you thought of as funny before you started doing films?
Hey, I don’t know. In the Guy Ritchie movies I did, [Revolver, Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels], he has a certain wit with a pen, and a lot of that straightly played humor seems to have a place and I quite like that kind of stuff.
Have you thought of breaking away from action movies and doing an indie drama or a romantic comedy?
Yeah, I’d love to do an interesting film in any of those genres; it’s just what comes your way. Usually the filmmaker is the drive. I’m not in pursuit of those because things are coming my way that are interesting in a different way and you have to make a decision. If people are interested in seeing you play a particular part and you like the part, the collaboration is a media. But if you’re pursuing something, I’m a director and I really want to put this chap in my picture and you’re banging on my door every night, but I want him; It’s going to create a difficult deal. You might get the part, or he might say he really wanted him. You can campaign, you can go after parts, and a lot of stuff that comes my way is… I’m doing a great film at the moment called Hummingbird with Steven Knight, who’s a terrific writer. He wrote Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things. He’s written a dark dramatic film and it’s probably the biggest departure from my action movies.
Did you do martial arts prior to this film?
I’ve done kickboxing, regular boxing, so I have experience in throwing a punch.
Did you research or train in other global styles?
There’s not a lot of time. They keep me very busy, but I work with a group of people in LA that have experience and knowledge in martial arts like you wouldn’t believe. They know and have studied it relentlessly for years and years. I’m working with them when I’m filming, when I’m not filming, so I’m absorbing and taking on board all the experience I can. It’s great, it’s a real passion, and that’s another reason why I tend to gravitate to doing these films, was because I really have a fascination for martial arts. I’m doing The Expendables 2, that’s coming out soon. But it’s very difficult to not make a movie become a martial arts movie. Because if you do a roundhouse kick or if you do something too fancy, it won’t really fit for the character, so you’re restricted by what the character and his background dictates.
Some call you this generation’s Charles Bronson. Is that something you embrace?
It’s an extremely gracious compliment and God knows how much truth is in that.
You’re a lot friendlier than he was [laughs].
I never had a chance to meet him.
Did you enjoy seeing a little of New York while filming?
One of the greatest cities in the world. It’s nice to be back and filming. It’s not easy to do that. That’s because it’s very crowded in the streets. It’s never quite dead. There’s always traffic or people. You’re shooting in the middle of the day and it’s not an easy task, but that’s more of a headache for the production. The actors can just come in and do the scene.
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 3, 2012.