Movie Review: Safe House

I can figure out whether or not you’ll like this movie in a question: Do you like Denzel “I’m Always in Control” Washington? I find it funny when he plays a role that’s supposed to be a “regular guy” more or less (Taking of Pelham 123, 2009, Unstoppable, 2010). He just can’t do it. He’s too cool and has that commanding screen presence, if you will. A friend and I were discussing this before the movie came out and decided that putting him in a role where he’s not the lead investigtor or the guy who just knows everything is like when Clark Kent wears his glasses and suit. Come on man, we know you’re Superman. You’re not fooling anybody. Change into the outfit and be the guy that’s way more fun to watch. Thankfully, this is that movie.

Tobin Frost (Washington) is a rogue CIA agent that is nowhere and everywhere at once. He was the greatest agent in the history of espionage until he decided that doing whatever he wanted with his talents would be a better use. We don’t find this out until he falls into the lap of up-and-coming agent, and safe keeper, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), who feels as though he’s ready to get into the field and see some action. He soon gets what he wished for and more when rebel fighters interrupt the not-so-legal interrogation to get Frost. The rest of the film is filled with car chasese and fistfights as Weston does his best to keep Frost out of everybody’s reach. What’s worse is that Frost’s specialty seems to be mindgames, as he toys with Weston making him feel as though there’s no one he can really trust.

Critics seem to be confused about this movie, and I understand it to a point. The story isn’t anything too spectacular, and they seem to be especially tired of Ryan Reynolds. I understand this as well, after he helped destroy the onscreen presence of one of my favorite comic book characters, Deadpool, in 2009’s Wolverine movie. They also pan it for it’s use of frentic camera work and all out action with no pauses in between. This is not entirely disagreeable as I had to remind myself two or three times as to what was actually supposed to be happening in this gunfight.

But even with this being a Denzel movie (meaning of course, that’s it’s going to do well), I still don’t see the need to judge it that harshly. When I watch an action movie, I don’t care about the story as much as I do the set-up, which I appreciate here. Everybody plays their part as well as they always do, even if it’s a role we’ve seen time and time again. Brendan Gleeson, Vera Fermiga, and Sam Shepard all do a good job as Reynolds’ superiors who aren’t sure whether or not Reynold’s character has turned adding to the suspense of what will happen even if Reynolds completes his mission of bringing Washington in. Director Daniel Espinosa does a great jobof focusing on Frost psychologically demoralizing Weston in between action scenes, letting us believe the subtitle “no one is safe.” Heck, I’m only security at a movie theater and I don’t trust anyone there, so I can imagine being in the CIA would make a man one paranoid mofo. Is Frost telling Weston the truth of how his bosses really handle things behind the scenes? Or is he just really screwing with him? With Washington’s slick smile, it’s hard to tell.

Fares Fares (Yep, that’s a guy’s name) is also great as the leader of the team that’s killing EVERYONE that stands between him and Frost. I’m not sure if he said more a two words in the entire movie but with his somewhat distant stare, you get the idea that while not a terminator, he feels no sympathy for anyone that gets in his way. Once again, I don’t particularly care for the roles Reynolds usually portrays: cocky and sarcastic. Pow, you’ve got all of his movies. But that’s not the case in this film, as you really do get the feeling he’s not just trying to survive, but prove himself in a world where nobody seems to take him seriously. The fight scenes are done especially well too as gunshots are startling and the hand to hand combat makes the characters seem more like rabid dogs than agents. As for Washington, what do you say? He’s Alonzo Harris’ (Washington’s training day character) morals with Creasy of Man on Fire’s abilities. I dug it, and I’m sure others will too. It’s not going to change the way you look at movies, but it doesn’t have to for you to enjoy it.

Stars: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Fermiga, Brendan Gleeson

Rated R for violence and language, runtime 2 hours, Action/Adventure

Plays Like: 16 Blocks(2006), Training Day (2001)


One Response to “Movie Review: Safe House”

  1. Nice review. Nicely thought out and expressed. I reviewed it and gave it a four out five expressing that this is not a thinking man’s film, instead it for those who want action. I call this film the anti-tinker/tailor.

    Okay it isn’t new or fresh. The dialogue doesn’t crackle – and there’s not that much in the way of surprises – I mean after the safe house is attacked. What follows is a standard Bourne-esque thriller – and that’s good.

    Most of all, the film is entertaining – no doubt due to majestic Denzel Washington. I was prepared to not care for Reynolds – but he did quite well.

    Thanks for the review.



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