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Safe House (1999)

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 10/07/01 07:48:34

"Is this where the line forms to see Patrick Stewart's naked butt?"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Lord knows why, but I fished this movie out of a magazine rack next to my couch. Odd. Apparently some random family member has a thing for Patrick Stewart and picked it up at a flea market for 90 cents.

After enjoying Stewart's work for years on Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his small appearances in movies like L.A. Story and Lifeforce), I was intrigued enough by his presence on the video cover to give the movie a shot. Upon further examination, I discovered that a certain cutie named Kimberly Williams was also starring in Safe House. Despite my feverish devotion to the DVD format, my boredom overtook me and I popped this VHS into the player.

Suffice to say that this is not the movie to combat boredom.

Stewart plays Mace Sowell. Mace is one of two things:

A. A former "DIA" agent who has been targeted for termination, thereby forcing him to live within a massive house in manic fear of the outside world.

or

B. A senile old coot with a lot of disposable income.

Mace's house is a paranoiac's sweetest dream: Security cameras, infra-red zone alarms, code keys, Shiny Buttons, Weep-weep alarm thingies, a Spanish maid, a massive internet hookup and a pool boy guy who comes around twice a week to simulate assassinations to keep Mace on his toes.

A few words about "Stuart". He's the pool cleaner. OK, that I can buy. But Stuart also takes to sneaking over the walls of this fortress in a vain attempt to "kill" Mace. The fact that Mace has about 32 cameras and vault-like locks throughout the house does nothing to prevent Stuart from doing his best "Kato" impressions. If that weren't moronic enough, get this: Stuart only speaks in movie character impressions! In one scene he's attempting a truly awful Bogie and throughout the movie he does everything possible to make you pray for his death. Rarely are cinematic characters this infuriatingly stupid.

Speaking of stupid, Mace has a daughter. She frowns upon Mace's constant paranoia, so she takes him to see a shrink played by Hector Elizondo. (When Mace visits the doctor, he chooses to dress up like a Hassidic Rabbi or a telephone repairman to avoid assassination.) Obviously under the impression that four insipid characters aren't nearly enough to sink this movie, the shrink recommends that Mace hire a live-in caregiver. Of course the part of Andi is played by the young and perky Kimberly Williams, who set the movie world on its ear by playing "Bride" in both of those Father of the Bride remakes a few years back.

What Kim lacks in acting skills, she more than makes up for in pretty blue eyes.

75% of this movie takes place within the fortress-like house, with Mace acting all gruff and profane while Andi stands around rolling her eyes at the doddering old fossil. The main question of the movie is this: Is Mace really being hunted by government agents...or is she just going loopy? This question is nearly answered adequately about 14 times throughout the film, but every time we think we know the truth...it just turns out to be that idiot pool cleaner wearing his favorite ninja jammies.

For a made-for-cable "thriller", Safe House is surprisingly slow and ponderous. Most B-movies (even the ones worse than this one) at the very least have a solid sense of pacing. But Safe House lumbers on and on rehashing the same scenes numerous times. The actors deliver the same stale dialogue. The screenplay all but commands us to believe that Mace is simply senile...which should give you one huge clue as to the finalé. (He's not!)

If for some reason you've always had a desire to see the posterior butt region of Patrick Stewart, feel free to bump my 2-star rating up to a 3. Stewart's performance in the movie is as strong as his other work; I can only assume that the producers thought a shot of him naked would perhaps boost his shot at an Oscar nomination.

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