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Written by: Sam Fragoso on February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012 | 15 comments | Featured, Old Format

Safe House

Within in the medium of cinema, versatility and nuance are of great value. Some films attempt to branch out from the mainstream, and create something original and bold. And then there’re some films, like Safe House, that feel content with their direction: middling, uninspired, and so unbearably predictable that there isn’t a frame, shot, or plot point that couldn’t have been accurately guessed within the opening 10 minutes.

Featuring two of our biggest “stars” in Hollywood, Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington headline in this action frenzied mix of Green Zone meets The Bourne series. Both of which are vastly more compelling pieces of film.

Set in the rigid city of Cape Town, Matt Weston (Reynolds) is a young, up incoming CIA agent that has been stranded with a job equivalent to babysitting. Except, instead of infant children, Matt has been ordered to watch over a Government safe house used to hold prisoners and assist officers. However, things have been pretty slow for the past 10 months.

That is until Tobin Frost (Washington) makes an unexpected appearance. Frost was a former CIA agent – acclaimed for being a “master of psychological manipulation” – but within the past 9 years has gone rogue.  What the US government isn’t aware of is that Tobin is a worldwide hot commodity, with information that could put a lot of folks in high places, into some serious trouble.

This is the start of Matt’s first physical and mental CIA experience. Being wanted by nearly everyone (Frost that is), the supposed “safe house” gets heavily attacked by unknown gunman. Every American soldier falls in battle, but Weston and Frost make it out alive.

And again – as with all too many contemporary action pictures – Safe House proceeds with little suspense or surprise. The initial promise the film offers slowly morphs into yet again another exercise in hyper kinetic editing, compounded by inconsequential action.

Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington confronting their realities in filmmaker Daniel Espinosa's "Safe House"

However, I must admit that despite my harsh negativity towards many of the film’s crucial features, Safe House never fails to produce a tense spectacle. It also doesn’t hurt that Washington can do no wrong as a hard-hitting rogue officer providing sage advice to our naïve agent.

While Ryan Gosling has taken us by storm in the past year, Reynolds is not to be unnoticed. He’s a visceral actor, capable of playing a character of uncertainty with intensity and authenticity.

All roads lead to the same facet: trust no one, no one is safe. This isn’t a new conceit and has arguably been overdone in the past few years. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a subject or philosophical belief that can’t be spun into something valuable.

Just a month ago Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire tackled the same idea with a jazzy, electric, and enigmatic spirit that was of quality.

Safe House simply goes through the motions. And while those motions include an onslaught of violence that are occasionally exciting and well acted, director Daniel Espinosa’s endeavor does nothing to be a unique entry into the overworked, corrupt crime mystery genre.

Rating: ★★½☆

Safe House

Safe House (2012)

Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writer: David Guggenheim

Runtime: 115 minutes

Genre: thriller, mystery, crime

Trailer Safe House


There are 15 comments for this post.

  1. Sam Fragoso on February 10, 2012 9:38 am

    I still need to check out BURIED. My friends despised the film, critics love it.

  2. ruth on February 10, 2012 11:24 am

    I had just read a glowing review over at FirstShowing and I thought, hmm, really?? I think my gut is more inclined to agree w/ you. It just seems like a generic action, maybe worth a rental but that’s it.

  3. Sam Fragoso on February 10, 2012 12:46 pm

    It’s not so great. Perhaps worth a rental.

  4. Rodney on February 10, 2012 1:54 pm

    Must be one of those films where “the butler did it”…. right? I think I’ll skip this until the BluRay comes along….. cheaply.

  5. Sam Fragoso on February 10, 2012 2:00 pm

    A cheap blu-ray of a new film? Never. You must have some resources.

  6. Nick on February 10, 2012 2:48 pm

    What do you think, is Denzel just phoning in these roles? Or is he taking them seriously? Or is it somewhere inbetween? I’m sure he’s a smart money-manager, he can’t be that hard up for cash.

  7. Sam Fragoso on February 10, 2012 7:37 pm

    I think he’s just really fantastic at playing the same role.

  8. Dirtywithclass on February 10, 2012 9:36 pm

    I am getting kinda tired of Reynolds seemingly taking on a endless stream of shit roles after his amazing performance in Buried. I am hoping he will impress me again soon

  9. Sam Fragoso on February 10, 2012 9:38 pm

    I haven’t seen “Buried” yet …. but perhaps it’s about time I check it out.

  10. Matt Stewart on February 10, 2012 9:40 pm

    Darn, so i’m not going to get a Chronicle review, am I? :D

  11. Sam Fragoso on February 11, 2012 3:36 am

    That’s coming don’t worry. Other articles keep getting in the way.

  12. Candice Frederick on February 11, 2012 9:22 am

    it is indeed super intense, even if it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. i don’t think the story is compelling, like you point out. and it’s not as smart or forward thinking as the two other films you mentioned. but i do think it engages the audience, without trying to be more than what it is

  13. Sam Fragoso on February 12, 2012 10:23 am

    That’s exactly what i thought about when giving the film a “rating” … it engaged me for the most part.

  14. Duke & The Movies :: February: The Romanticism on February 29, 2012 9:50 am

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