Safe House is the kind of well-made, exciting action film that delivers the goods fans are looking for. It never aspires to be anything more, as evidenced by the run-of-the-mill corrupt government story at its core. You’ve seen it all before, but it doesn’t matter. This flick is more about ramming cars in your face, people fighting amongst glass shards, and a parade of shootouts. And those are things that Safe House does very well.
Denzel Washington stars as Tobin Frost (is that a movie name or what?), a wanted traitor who mysteriously surrenders himself at a South African embassy. He’s taken into custody and delivered to a safe house guarded by Matt Weston (Reynolds), a fairly green worker who’s looking to move up the chain. Before long the safe house is attacked by mercenaries looking to apprehend Frost, but he and Weston escape. A web of government intrigue soon develops as Weston begins to realize that Frost may not be the evil man his reputation makes him out to be.
Director Daniel Espinosa makes his American film directorial debut with Safe House, and he knows his way around an action scene. Though he makes dangerously excessive use of the shaky cam, the set pieces are phenomenal, particularly one at a South African soccer game. David Guggenheim’s screenplay is pretty thin, but the combination of star power and non-stop excitement (seriously, I dare you to get bored during this movie) keeps things afloat and engaging.
We haven’t seen a whole lot of Denzel Washington in recent years, and here he pretty much does his signature underplayed badass routine. He’s a master at seeming imposing with just facial expressions, and his presence easily lifts this ordinary story up a few notches. Ryan Reynolds keeps up in a physically-demanding role and the two go head-to-head regularly. Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson are both underused in supporting roles, though the screenplay hardly seems concerned with characters other than Frost and Weston.
Safe House won’t win any screenplay awards, but it’s also more interested in winning action set piece awards. For those starving for a gritty, competently-made action film that’s not loaded down with corny CGI, this is the ticket. In a very thin non-comic book action/adventure market, Safe House is a very serviceable entry for those who miss when action movies starred actual human beings. With non-stop excitement and just enough story points to hold it all together, Safe House is a solid February diversion.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 115 Minutes
Rating: R for strong violence throughout and some language.
Theatrical Release: February 10, 2012
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by: David Guggenheim
Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard