dir-scr Boaz Yakin
prd Lawrence Bender, Dana Brunetti
with Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, James Hong, Anson Mount, Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, Oksana Lada, Danny Hoch, Joseph Sikora, Jennifer Butler, Igor Jijikine
release US 27.Apr.12, UK 4.May.12
12/US 1h34
On the run again: Chan and Statham

sarandon hong mount
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Safe Like a bullet to the head, this movie has no time for subtlety, charging through a series of violent shootouts that are strung together into one cacophonous, chaotic chase. It finally finds some humour in the final act, but by then it's too late to save us.

Ex-cop Luke (Statham) is working as a cage fighter when he runs afoul of the Russian mafia, because they lose millions stupidly betting against him. Brutally hunted by the boss' son (Sikora), Luke is contemplating suicide when he spots little Mei (Chan) being chased by the Chinese mob. Suddenly kicking into gear, he rescues her and discovers that she's a numerical prodigy who has memorised an important sequence of numbers. But now the Russians, Chinese and a gang of rogue cops led by a New York police captain (Burke) are all after them.

This is one of those simplistic scripts doesn't bother with logic or characterisation. The plot merely strings one set-piece to another, and it's all just an excuse to shoot guns and blow stuff up. The quantity of flying bullets is so mind-numbing that Hong Kong-era John Woo seems restrained by comparison. These brutal men charge into streets, restaurants and nightclubs levelling away anyone who gets in the way. Although the stars miraculously manage to dodge the bullets so they can have a variety of corny showdowns.

At the centre, Statham is oddly gloomy as the sulky Luke, who finds a glimmer of hope in this little girl. It takes ages for him to regain that swagger and start flinging out sassy one-liners. Meanwhile, everyone else grunts and struts manfully, with Sarandon adding some class as the slimy mayor. In the middle of this testosterone storm, Chan somehow holds her own, making us believe that perhaps she could take them all on.

Yes, it's both over-serious and utterly preposterous. And not much fun. Yakin is a skilled director, but he edits the action so severely that all we witness is the noisy massacre of hundreds of people caught in the crossfire of these three murderous gangs. The key problem is that Luke and Mei are the film's MacGuffins: pointless plot elements that drive the action. Which leaves Mei's string of numbers (and what they mean) as a rather dull red herring.

cert 15 themes, language, strong violence 28.Mar.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall