Mini-Reviews: Safe and The Pirates: Band of Misfits
In the first ten minutes of Safe, we jump back and forth on the film’s narrative timeline five different times. I sighed, nervous that this meant the film was doomed to be a sloppy mess, but as it wore forward, I found Boaz Yakin’s direction skillful and Statham’s performance perhaps his most vulnerable to date. Even though it’s obvious where the film is headed, it’s not a brainless action-fest– at least for the first 45 minutes or so. As the plot moves forward towards its inevitable one-versus-many conflict, it’s only natural that the film devolves into gunfights, as Statham engaging in solely hand-to-hand combat against two mobs and the entire NYPD would stretch the suspension of disbelief of even the biggest Statham aficionado. A shame, really: the first half of Safe is among the best work of Statham’s career. The last half is noisy and cluttered (a villain is introduced with maybe twenty minutes left), but much of the film is a wildly enjoyable B-movie, with Statham in top form and the always-awesome James Hong as a Chinese gangster. For fans of the action genre, Safe is a safe bet.
The Pirates: Band of Misfits
Aardman Animations, the studio behind Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit, and the new film The Pirates: Band of Misfits, belongs on the Mount Rushmore of animated feature film. They cram more gags, visual and verbal, into his films than any filmmakers working today. The Pirates is probably the least of their feature-length efforts– it’s the most slight in stakes and the least ambitious in action sequences (outside of a terrific chase involving a bathtub). However, it’s still a cracking good time, with hilarious characters, gorgeous animation, and a scene-stealing deadpan monkey. I knew I would enjoy it from the opening shot, in which a sign is held up to tell the audience the setting, and as the camera pans back, we get a brief glimpse of the man holding the sign, who embarrassedly looks around. This is classic Aardman, the throwaway visual gag, both breaking the 4th wall and immediately drawing us into the style of the piece. Also classic Aardman: making a film better than 95% of everything else out. Even the least of their work would be the best of other studios. Anyone who doesn’t like The Pirates can walk the plank. (Sidenote: the British title “The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists!” is an infinitely superior title to the bland American version.)