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.
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.