Safe House (starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds)
A well-known wanted fugitive Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is being held up in a CIA “SAFE HOUSE” for some illegal interrogation over a stolen item that both sides of bad and good are interested in. When the safe house is infiltrated, the one surviving agent escapes with his prisoner. No longer knowing who to trust, inexperienced agent Weston (Ryan Reynolds) must escort this infamous prisoner to another safe house while being chased by people who want to kidnap Frost and murder Weston.
I remember reporting news about this film a year ago. With the premise of a young agent on the run with a criminal mastermind, my interest was peeked. When casting announced Ryan Reynolds as the agent and Denzel Washington as the wanted prisoner, I felt the excitement grow. Once again we get the ever-magnetic Denzel in the role of a bad guy similar to his Oscar winning role in TRAINING DAY. Unfortunately, the character and the film never resonated quite as strongly.
The initial setup is quite captivating and the first half of the film does a nice job keeping the audience at the edge of their seats. However once that cat and mouse game finally gets going, SAFE HOUSE falls into a typical action format, where the journey becomes far too convenient and we know the answers and double crosses that will surely follow.
For those who may not be clear, a safe house is basically an innocent-appearing house or premises established by the CIA for the purpose of conducting covert activity (such as interrogating a master criminal and possible terrorist) in relative security. Therefore the fact that the safe house was attacked so quickly and easily clearly means there is an informant on the inside, which the film is happy to divulge.
We have three options who the corrupt CIA agent head could be, as they are the only three characters introduced to the audience other than the nameless bad guys hot on our two lead’s trail – Sam Shepard (THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD) as Whitford, Vera Farmiga (UP IN THE AIR, SOURCE CODE) as Linklater and Brendan Gleeson (HARRY POTTER, THE GUARD) as Barlow. Trust me when I say while watching the film, your 33.3% chance of guessing correctly will be right 100% of the time.
SAFE HOUSE relies on happy accidents and unlikely scenarios to further the story. Weston learning of Frost’s whereabouts by randomly seeing a sign at the airport that Frost just happened to make note of earlier or finding Frost with relative ease among a crowded sports stadium are a few moments that while maybe possible are just far too unlikely. Relying on luck more so than skills is in bad form for a hero and insulting to the audience. I’m surprised these big stars jumped on board with relatively unknown and first timers in writer David Guggenheim and director Daniel Espinosa. Both of who showed some bright spots but seemed to rely on conventional styles in story telling and unmemorable action sequences.
I have to hand it to Denzel who infinitely makes a film better just by starring in it. Clearly my audience felt the same, as they expressed their love for the man with laughter and cheers even when he did the most mundane things like shooting a man a second time. Denzel is supposedly the bad guy but you would have never known from my audience. Instead of being horrified they were downright giddy during a few scenes, which you could argue is a curse from an actors standpoint but from a studio standpoint that’s a goldmine. Ryan Reynolds is no slouch himself holding his own during some of the more emotional and intense scenes. I just wish the two actors could have had more give and take when they shared the screen.
The film is far less psychological than what the previews might want you to think. The premise is solid but the plot development becomes far too convenient and predictable. Despite these problems, I was mildly entertained. Tensing up a few times during some of the more suspenseful scenes coupled with some decent actors who have strong screen presence, I found SAFE HOUSE to be a halfway enjoyable ride, but I might get off the second half next time around.