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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.55%
Worth A Look: 40.91%
Pretty Bad: 4.55%
Total Crap: 4.55%

2 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Safe House (2012)
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by Brett Gallman

"Plays it safe."
3 stars

“Safe House,” the latest entry into the “Denzel Washington schools a younger white guy” canon, feels very similar to the films that Washington has featured in recently--the only difference here is that this one doesn’t feature Tony Scott or trains.

Instead, Washington is back in the role of a scoundrel again as rogue CIA agent Tobin Frost, who is wheeling and dealing in South Africa. When he suddenly finds himself being fired upon, he ducks into the nearest U.S. consulate, despite having been on the CIA’s most wanted list for nine years. He’s eventually moved to a secure safe house being babysat by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), a rookie itching for some actual field work. This wish is granted when the house is crashed by the local terrorists that are intent on recovering whatever Frost has in his possession, leaving Weston to go on the lam with his “house guest” in tow.

The narrative initially leaves the audience in the dark as to the nature of Frost’s big secret; for a while, it just feels like a standard MacGuffin, simply there to get the plot rollicking along as Washington and Reynolds move from car chases to shootouts. When “Safe House” settles down a bit, the plot gets around to the standard stuff that would usually fill out an entire season of “24” in the form of some political intrigue and shady governmental dealings. Eventually, it degenerates into yet another game of whack-a-mole, as we’re left wondering who can be trusted, a lesson also learned by Reynolds as Denzel gives him a crash course in Governmental Bureaucracy 101. I will at least say that the pursuit boils down to the stuff I always preferred in “24,” as the characters don’t find themselves chasing down some WMD; instead, it’s more of a techno paper-chase for secrets.

The only problem is that we don’t particularly care who these secrets ultimately pertain to; there’s a bit of a question as to Washington’s real motivations, but I’m not sure that’s actually earned by the script so much as our subconscious desire to like Denzel. Plus, aside from a couple of times where he roughs up Reynolds, he doesn’t do much to earn our full distrust since he’s a perpetually bemused and shaggy wiseacre, rather than an actual, menacing villain. More than anything else, this speaks to how safe “Safe House” plays things; instead of giving Washington an opportunity to craft a memorable against-type turn, it simply allows him to comfortably ease back into his typical shtick.

I’ll hesitate to say he’s phoning it in, though, because he’s still quite good and builds some solid chemistry with Reynolds (who is also stuck in his usual, affable persona). If the aim of “Safe House” was to pair up a couple of guys that everyone generally enjoys and let them play cops and robbers for a couple hours, then it’s a success. Not a riveting success, mind you--if my showing is to be believed, then the most crowd-pleasing moment comes when Denzel sheds the ruffian get-up and trades it in for something more clean-cut (at least that was the case among the female contingent seated behind me). Our leads are adequately surrounded by the likes of Vera Farminga and Brendan Gleason as a couple of stateside agents who end up figuring into the plot more than they should; the film just spins its wheels whenever we’re watching them scan monitors and chatter on phones. Ditto for the nameless, faceless terrorists perpetually on the main duo’s trail, scrounged up whenever it’s time to shuttle over to another South African locale. Oh, and Robert Patrick gratuitously appears as a field agent named Kiefer, as if I needed to belabor the "24" comparison any more.

Oddly enough, the guy that’s been floated about for the seemingly mythical “24” movie is the younger Scott brother; he’s not around here, but director Daniel Espinosa does his best to convince you otherwise. “Safe House” is shakily relayed and frantically cut, awash in blown-out contrasts and faux-grit, resulting in a film that you feel more than you see. If you’re someone affected by the common side-effects of these sorts of action films, have your Dramamine handy because I’m not sure Espinosa ever abandons the handheld approach.

“Safe House” is a thriller that won’t exactly be thrilling to anyone who has seen anything remotely like it, as it’s yet another high concept pickpocket that cobbles together elements of other, better films. You liked it when Denzel portrayed charismatic rogues in the past, and you liked it when Ryan Reynolds played a fresh-faced good guy in…well, everything. So, here they are in tandem, by way of a condensed season of “24” that will also feel familiar if you’ve so much as even picked up a controller to play an escort mission of “Grand Theft Auto.”

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originally posted: 02/11/12 17:20:17
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User Comments

1/03/18 danR low-skill fight choreography masked by 1 second sequences: Bourne v. Desh it ain't. 3 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell good movie even if its a bourne clone 4 stars
6/23/13 Joe Smaltz 3:10 to Yuma with out a train. Could have been another Borne movie. 2 stars
8/17/12 mr.mike I give it a rare "Awesome" rating. 5 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison Good, but too predictable and cliched for its own good. 3 stars
7/16/12 The Taitor Ok action movie but it feels oddily similar to a bunch of others, combined together, rental 3 stars
7/03/12 Monday Morning Hey man! You can trust us...we're the C.I.A.! 4 stars
6/04/12 action movie fan exciting clever action thriller marred by weak ending 4 stars
2/13/12 The Big D No plot but lots of noise--it's two hours of explosions, gunfire, and yelling. 1 stars
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  10-Feb-2012 (R)
  DVD: 05-Jun-2012


  DVD: 05-Jun-2012

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