Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a rookie CIA agent stationed at an underused safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. When agents bring in Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), an ex-agent wanted for espionage, Weston is thrust into a wild escape plan, high level intrigue and must learn who to trust. Metro movie reviewer Steve Gow opines in place of Mark Breslin this week.
Richard: Steve, for most of the running time, Safe House is a pretty exciting action movie. Things blow up, Denzel is a cool bad guy, but when the movie slows down to try and provide some back story it kind of lost me. What did you think?
Steve: Richard, I agree. Although the film begins with some fairly intense action, for the most part newcomer director Daniel Espinosa has crafted a pretty ordinary thriller. It’s got an overabundance of car chases, foot chases and frenetic over-the-top fight scenes that, inasmuch as they seem stolen out of the Bourne series, wears thin pretty quick. Still, that Denzel can steal a scene, can’t he?
RC: He sure can, much to the detriment of his costar Ryan Reynolds. Denzel wipes the floor with Reynolds. The tension of the movie comes from Washington. He’s a leading man who isn’t afraid to explore the evil nature of his characters, and unlike other A-listers like Tom Cruise or Will Smith, who have it written in their contracts that they must be the hero, Washington adds in a heap of moral ambiguity, which keeps things interesting.
SG: Absolutely. Unlike the doomed romantic sub-plot between Ryan Reynolds and a Parisian blondie. I get that Espinosa is trying to add character dimension but it just ends up unnecessary and slows the rest of the film. Besides, Safe House is about visceral action first and foremost and it does deliver there. Almost unrelentingly.
RC: Too bad Green Lantern didn’t have action half as good as Safe House. Then there might have been a sequel and we’d all be talking about Reynolds in his green tights instead of how here he is mainly a pile of clichés who barely registers when placed next to the more complex Washington character.
SG: Well, don’t expect any sequels here either. In fact, for a story that was touted as one of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood before it was snapped up, it doesn’t push the crooked CIA story any further than we’ve seen before. Still, Denzel is clearly enjoying himself and I expect most audiences will vicariously join him for the ride.
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