Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
Opens locally Friday, February 10th, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard
Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Easy Money, Outside Love)
Man is Denzel good at being bad.
It is training day all over again for Denzel Washington, whose student this time around is Ryan Reynolds. In Safe House, Reynolds plays CIA operative Matt Weston, who is known as a “housekeeper” – a person who runs and operates a CIA safe house where high-profile prisoners are kept out of sight. Denzel is Tobin Frost, a notorious baddie who is an ex-CIA operative turned traitor, most recently on the run for selling important government intel to terrorists for profit. Weston is a rookie agent who hasn’t seen field action, who was given the safe house duty because he wasn’t trusted with anything else. With Frost in his posssession, his safe house is attacked, and he flees with Frost in his custody. The race begins to see if he can deliver Frost to the US government before they are both killed by pursuing assailants.
Frost has something that these people want. Denzel on the other hand, has what every other actors in Hollywood should want – unbelievable star power. His Tobin Frost character is cooler than the other side of the pillow, and he effortlessly oozes charisma whenever on screen. Few are as convincing as both good guys and as villains in their career…and Denzel plays Tobin Frost to great effectiveness as a good guy who just happens to do bad things.
Although on opposing sides of the criminal fence, Frost sees a lot of himself in the young Weston, who is still full of hope and promise without the faintest bit of corruption in his soul. Weston ironically learns to be a real agent from Frost, whom is his prisoner. They are two sides of the same coin.
From the get-go, Safe House delivers as an effective if cliché-riddled action caper. Shoe-horned into the film is also the mandatory romantic sub-plot, which is as ineffective and pointless as it usually is. At nearly 2-hours, Safe Houseseems a bit long, with a few lulls in the action that tend to drag things out longer than needed. As the film shakes along, we get the tired “there is a mole in the US government!” sub-story as well. Per norm, we are introduced to several players in the higher levels of government, all of which could potentially be the inside bad guy.
In trying to be unpredictable, Safe House is annoyingly predictable.
Anybody who has seen an action movie in the past 20 years should be able to sniff out what happens, who is the bad guy, and who gets it in the end. Denzel though, is good enough to overcome any plot contrivances. Reynolds is surprisingly effective as well, and the movie excels when the two are on screen together, which is a large chunk of the film. There are some great sequences, and some classic edge-of-your-seat moments to boot.
Be warned though, that Safe House uses the “shaky camera” shooting style to the worst effectiveness in perhaps the history of cinema. The camera unnecessarily flips and shakes all over the place from nearly start to finish. It was as if the entire movie was filmed while on horseback in the midst of an earthquake, captured on a vibrating cell phone camera. For the action sequences, this style becomes a bit more appropriate and effective, but it also covers up what could have been some really strong fight and chase choreography. It's an over-used trend that I hope stops soon...have confidence in the action itself, instead of dizzying the audience into submission.
Shaky cam aside, Safe House is a safe bet to see in theaters, if only to see one of the few great super-stars still shining in the Hollywood sky as he does his thing. And no, that is not a reference to Ryan Reynolds.
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