Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.
Release Date: February 10th, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Daniel Espinosa Actors: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick, Tracie Thoms
ow many times have audiences seen government conspiracy action films with double agents, microchips, and rogue operatives running rampant? Well, here’s one more. “Safe House” offers almost nothing fresh, though it does still deliver its fair share of thrills. The South African location, Denzel Washington’s duplicitous dialogue, and the intense car chases help to coax viewers into forgetting about the humdrum plot, but it’s never too far away. At least the next frenzied action sequence isn’t either.
Ambitious CIA agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) works a dead-end job as a safe house guard. Longing for excitement and a more prestigious position, Matt gets his wish when high profile defector Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is brought in to his facility for interrogation. But when heavily armed mercenaries unexpectedly arrive and attempt to capture Frost, Weston must escort the dangerous fugitive to safety – all while dodging bullets, crooked government agents, and the treacherous efforts of his cunning prisoner.
If it’s been accomplished in another action movie, it’s repeated in “Safe House.” The film struggles for originality and is sorrowfully unable to bring a single new idea to the table. However, even with an incredibly predictable ending, generic characters, commonplace adventures based on evasion and pursuit, and a plot of cookie-cutter proportions, the pacing is decidedly respectable. Even at two hours long, watching Denzel Washington embody the seasoned, composed mentor to a naïve, fumbling rookie amounts to decent entertainment. The only truly annoying aspect to Reynolds’ apprentice is his meddling inability to just shoot someone. Bringing morality and the mental tolls of killing or inflicting pain into a script that is so clearly primitive guns and explosions adds maddening complexity – pointlessly. What happened to the days when action movie heroes could rack up a preposterous body count and never worry about being trumpeted too bloodthirsty? Weston even has a silly love interest that serves to illustrate the loner qualities and incapacity to function in society that comes with covert government work – typical themes represented in the most standard fashion.
There’s obligatory automatic weaponry, car chases, vehicles colliding with the lead characters’ conveyance as they calmly exchange words, unwitting to the rapidly approaching juggernaut, evil looking foreign assassins, the violent shoving of civilians in crowded spaces, inside jobs (“everyone betrays everyone,” insists Frost), bureaucratic red tape, gaping plot holes (does the interrogation room of a safe house really get perfect cell phone reception?), and Reynolds taking his shirt off twice. The hunter becomes the hunted, only to become the hunter once again, fistfights go on forever, and bullets never slow down the recipients. But the mismatched, contrasting duo makes for amusing moments of humor and drama, as is expected from two wildly dissimilar creations. If routine problem solving, natural suspicion, and plausibility critiquing can be put aside for the duration of the show, with focus left to the nonstop action, “Safe House” can be pleasantly exciting.
– The Massie Twins