Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are no strangers to the action film genre, so what would happen if you put them together and pitted them against each other? Universal Pictures and director Daniel Espinosa are hoping this equals into big screen movie magic in the new action thriller “Safe House.”
In “Safe House,” rookie CIA agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) has been assigned to guard a safe house in Capetown, South Africa, for over a year. Itching to get off of what he considers day-care duty and see some action, he is told that his time will come when he can finally move into the field. His wishes come true when Tobin Frost (Washington) — an expert CIA operative who has gone rogue and been selling government secrets to the highest bidder for the past 10 years — walks into the American Consulate and gives himself up.
Frost is quickly transported to Weston’s safe house and is in the process of being interrogated when a small army descends on the secret location and wipes out the team set to transport Frost out of the country. Matt see this as his chance to prove his skills and he takes Frost and goes on the run to keep him out of the hands of the mysterious men willing to kill anybody to get to him.
Now out in the open, Matt must use every skill in his book to keep them both alive and evade the many groups pursing them. How long can he last while waiting for government help in this foreign country without any help while seemingly every group of possible mercenaries is hot on their trail? There are even more pressing questions that must be answered first: what information could Frost possibly have that would put him at the top of every nation’s “Most Wanted” list and, even more pressing, how was the safe house discovered when its location was only known to a select few in CIA headquarters? Who can Matt trust?
As Denzel Washington begins to age, his roles in movies haven’t changed that much. He is still in the thick of the action, but now, instead of being the action hero, he is the action villain. Ryan Reynolds is in the prime of his career and physical stature, proven in every genre to be a leading man, but how do the two fit together in the film? Quite well actually — they play off of each other in a way that makes you see them as professional and novice and they do make a connection through the film, but with a lackluster script, this typical action film leaves neither with actor a chance of making a lasting impression on its audience.
Director Daniel Espinosa has made a solid attempt at tackling a genre that usually ends up with all action and no story or vice versa, and although the action pieces in the film are well handled and edited nicely, the lack of plausible story or credible background information leaves it a muddled mess. The film jumps from one action sequence to the next with little between to keep the viewer happy. Any fan of action and espionage films will see every plot twist coming from the start as they are as apparent as the glass windows that people are thrown through so very often in the film.
The film does have a good supporting cast, but “Safe House” wastes their talents. Including a love story for Reynolds’ character that has nothing to do with the plot of the film and not explaining the actions of certain government agents just uses valuable screen time that could have been devoted to furthering the storyline of the side characters that play into the film. Some of the wasted talent includes Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham and Nora Arnezeder.
Sorting through “Safe House” to find its successes and failures is pretty easy to do, but determining if it succeeds as a whole is harder. With a nice look to the film, a great cast, and fun and exciting action sequences, this turns out to be just another filler movie to go between better films by Washington and Reynolds.
In theaters now, “Safe House” is rated R for strong violence throughout and some language.
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