Sunday, November 4, 2012

Safe House

Directed by Daniel Espinosa.
2012. Rated R, 115 minutes.
Brendan Gleeson
Fares Fares
Liam Cunningham
Nora Arnezeder
Rubén Blades
Sam Shepard
Robert Patrick
Joel Kinnaman
Tracie Thoms

Since he is an FBI agent you wouldn’t think Matt Weston (Reynolds) has a boring job, but he does. He spends all day, every day as a housekeeper. No, he’s not the kind you rich folks employ. He is the sole agent posted at a “safe house,” a temporary holding facility for bad guys collared by the agency. This one is in Cape Town, South Africa. There is rarely anyone to watch. Suddenly, there is when former agent and suspected traitor Tobin Frost (Washington) turns himself in after a rather tense set of events has him staring death in the face. He’s brought to the safe house by a whole team of agents. Of course, things don’t go so smoothly. Some very bad people are after Mr. Frost and shoot their way in. After a narrow escape, Matt must not only stay alive but somehow get Frost safely to the higher-ups. His task is made even more difficult by the fact that Frost doesn’t really want to be in custody. The two men playing cat and mouse with both the bad guys and each other ensues.

Speedy pacing is this movie’s best friend. Though it doesn’t really break any new ground in the action/espionage genre, it does keep its foot fastened to the gas pedal. The next action sequence is never far off. For the most part, they don’t disappoint. They’re tense and just enough over the top to remain exciting. They’re helped by a narrative that functions enough to keep us somewhat interested in the fates of these two guys. Many of the twists and turns we can see coming pretty far off. However, in this instance they’re still pulled off nicely. So while it is predictable, it still works.

Lots of credit for clichés working well is due to our leads. Denzel does the thing where he’s constantly trying to pull jedi mind tricks on the other guy. Pure Denzel. Like Pacino, Nicholson and De Niro, he’s in that rarified air where he’s always enjoyable even though he’s basically playing the same character he always does, just with different occupations.

By contrast, Denzel’s co-star Ryan Reynolds mostly forgoes his usual wiseass routine, giving us more of a straight-laced action hero. Even without his normal one-liners, the banter between he and Denzel is fun and he becomes easy to root for. For me, it’s his best performance in a non-comedy except possibly the underrated remake of The Amityville Horror. Yeah, I’m the one person that likes that movie.

If you’re just looking for an action flick to pass time, you could certainly do worse than Safe House. Despite the fact it offer little or nothing in the way of originality, it’s still an enjoyable ride. It gives us what we came for the way we like. Is it a masterpiece? No. However, for a popcorn flick it works fine. It goes down smoothly. Perhaps it’s a tad too smooth as there are no real surprises, but smooth nonetheless.


MY SCORE: 6.5/10

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