Safe House Review

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Safe House

Year: 2012
Rating: R
Runtime: 1 HR, 55 MIN

Director: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Fares Fares, Liam Cunningham, and Robert Patrick



Film Rating: 3 out of 5
Last year I was rough on Ryan Reynolds, his performances in The Green Lantern and The Change-Up were both terrible and I questioned why he was still considered a box office draw.  After The Green Lantern I also questioned his abilities as a dramatic actor and whether he could lead a film that didn’t require him to play the thirty something version of Van Wilder.  My conclusion was that he couldn’t.  Today it appears I’m going to eat some humble pie, I’m not going to eat the whole thing but I’m going to admit something I didn’t think I’d ever have to admit here… Ryan Reynolds didn’t ruin Safe House.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a young, inexperienced CIA Agent stationed at a secret ‘safe house’ in South Africa.  He is desperate for a transfer to Paris that will allow him to move with his girlfriend that is completely unaware that she is dating a spook.  Weston’s boring day-to-day life is interrupted when he receives the call that he is receiving an unexpected guest in the form of the disgraced CIA Agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) who mysteriously turned himself in to US Authorities.  During his interrogation the safe house is breached by insurgents and Weston is forced to escape with Frost in tow.  Now on the run Weston must keep Frost safe and in custody but Frost has an agenda all his own.

While it doesn’t re-event the wheel by any means Safe House is a decent action thriller.  Even with Ryan “Van Wilder” Reynolds being the secondary leading man Safe House has an amazing cast.  Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Tobin Frost is 3/4ths Creasy from Man on Fire and 1/4th Alonzo Harris from Training Day.  His performance actually elevates the normally weak Reynolds into a respectable co-star in much the same way as the cast of Smokin’ Aces made him seem decently ‘un-lame.’  It was a pleasant surprise not having Reynolds playing his normal nauseating character that always has the same shit eating grin and cocky smart ass attitude.  I actually have a small amount of respect for the man now because he really appears to have put some work into Safe House and it shows.  I am somewhat disappointed in the fact that it did take less than a minute for Reynolds to find an excuse to take his shirt off but I guess they wanted to appease the ladies in the audience quickly.

The majority of the supporting cast is filled with actors that are comfortable playing both bit parts as well as being in a leading role like Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, and Sam Shepard.  When Washington and Reynolds aren’t on screen the film doesn’t suffer from sufficient star power but it does suffer a telegraphed script that is insultingly transparent.  Characters are given blatant dialogue that only serves to try and mislead the audience but it’s so poorly executed that it almost caused my eyes to roll right out of my head.  Equally cringe worthy are the moments when the camera lingers too long on a particular character not so subtly hinting at an ulterior motive.  It’s a shame that an otherwise interesting plot is hindered by some lazy and obvious plot points.

While the storyline featuring the secondary characters might be a bit lame the Washington-Reynolds plot works very well.  As I mentioned earlier, Reynolds manages not to ruin the film and Washington continues to show why he’s still a bankable star.  Where Safe House really excels is in terms of action and is one of the better R-rated action films I’ve seen in recent memory.  The main siege on the safe house is incredibly intricate with a great looking set and a well choreographed gun battle.  The safe house attack is the most impressive action piece but it’s by no means the only one.  There are several exciting car chases, some brutal hand to hand combat, and gun battles galore that help Safe House overcome some of its plot deficiencies.  Setting Safe House in Johannesburg, South Africa is also a huge bonus as it’s an unusual and striking location.  As an added “bonus” you’ll get to hear the World Cup musical instrument of choice, the vuvuzela in all of its annoying glory on the big screen

I don’t think this lovely scene made it into the final scene but… here it is anyways.

Great action sequences, another great performance by Denzel Washington, and some surprisingly tolerable acting by Ryan Reynolds helps make Safe House an entertaining diversion.  Unfortunately, some poor script decisions hamper the film and in the long run keep it from being an outstanding example of the genre.  With that said if you’re an action fan with reasonable expectations then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll enjoy Safe House (pun intended).

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Written by

Nicholas Herum