Mini Reviews (April 2012)
Safe, A Simple Life
Safe (April 19/12)
The latest in a long line of generic Jason Statham thrillers, Safe follows special-agent-turned-fighter Luke Wright (Statham) as he impulsively saves the life of a little girl (Catherine Chan's Mei) and subsequently finds himself drawn into a bloody gang war. It's a generic yet promising setup that's employed to consistently underwhelming effect by Boaz Yakin, as the writer/director, in addition to offering up an incongruously slow-paced opening half hour, has pervasively infused the proceedings with the feel of a second-rate, straight-to-video-like thriller involving crooked cops and sleazy mobsters. Far more problematic, however, is Yakin's incompetent handling of the movie's various action sequences, with such moments, including a promising set-piece in which Statham's character takes on over a dozen thugs within a crowded restaurant, drained of their energy (and coherence) by jittery camerawork and rapid-fire editing. (This sort of thing has become de rigueur as far as contemporary action flicks go, but seriously, enough is enough.) There is, as such, little doubt that Statham's expectedly engrossing performance is slowly-but-surely rendered moot, and it does become harder and harder to overlook the lulls that inevitably crop up as the narrative grows increasingly convoluted and complicated. And although the movie ends on an unexpectedly positive note, Safe is, by and large, just another hopelessly misguided modern actioner that makes one long for the comparatively masterful output of the 1980s.
A Simple Life
Directed by Ann Hui , A Simple Life follows successful film producer Roger Leung (Andy Lau) as he attempts to put his busy life on hold after his family's longtime maid (Deanie Yip's Chung Chun To) falls ill - with complications ensuing as Chung stubbornly moves into a ramshackle old-people's home. Filmmaker Hui has infused A Simple Life with a pervasively subdued feel that ideally complements Susan Chan and Yan-lam Lee's spare screenplay, with the movie's persistently watchable atmosphere heightened by the absolutely stellar work of its two leads. (Yip is certainly quite good here, although the film's MVP is undoubtedly Lau - as the actor delivers an almost astonishingly charismatic performance that does, generally speaking, compensate for the sporadic lulls within the narrative.) And although the midsection admittedly possess a palpable spinning-its-wheels quality, Hui has effectively peppered the proceedings with a handful of standout sequences that are often more emotionally-wrenching than one might've anticipated (eg Roger's college friends surprise Chung with an affectionate phone call). The movie's severe overlength ultimately diminishes the impact of its inevitably downbeat finale, which does, in the end, cement A Simple Life's place as a compelling yet uneven piece of work.