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Safe House

A movie directed by Daniel Espinosa

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A chase thriller devoid of any sort of originality or imagination; game efforts from cast help.

  • Jul 26, 2012
** out of ****

Rogue ex-CIA Agent turned criminal Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) meets with M16 agent Alec Wade (Liam Cunningham), who gives him a file that is apparently much-sought after by a group of vicious mercenaries. Tobin, gone from America for many years, suddenly enters a consulate and is instantly moved to a safe house for further interrogation. Why would he return after everything that he's done? He's a traitor, an outlaw, a criminal; and even worse, a man wanted by people on essentially all ends of the spectrum. The safe house he is moved to is being watched over by rookie agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), the housekeeper. Soon after arriving, the mercenaries assault the safe house and kill everyone but Matt and Tobin. The former takes the latter in his car; but as a prisoner, or as a guest? Both are implied to be intelligent men; and each is constantly making an attempt to outsmart the other while they're both on the run.

Matt's status throughout the film - as a runaway, or a fugitive, or as I said, a prisoner - threatens to put his personal and business life on hold. He must meet with his French girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) one last time and tell her what to say to anyone who comes around her place looking for answers regarding his whereabouts. Furthermore, he must decide whether to obey or to ignore the requests of the people who he thought were on his team the entire time, some of those people including his mentor (Brendan Gleeson) and a fellow agent (Vera Farmiga). Most of the plot is spent on finding out who exactly wants these guys dead and why. Their identities come into question a lot, and the twist does indeed involve the true nature of some of the characters (or maybe just one).

"Safe House", under the direction of Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa, is a thoroughly bland and unimaginative exercise in overly dramatic and excessively unexciting genre filmmaking. It aspires to be an action film - as exemplified by the various gunfights and car chases thrown in between each boring talky scene after the next - and a chase thriller. It has its heart in the right place and as I would expect, so did Espinosa when he was making it; but boy, it's gonna take a whole lot more than just heart to take this kind of material above and beyond. As it is, "Safe House" budges a few times but never really gets going until the last act, where revelations are promised, as is some sort of payoff. Needless to say, I still felt underwhelmed by the time it was all over; but also kind of relieved.

Is the film unbearable? No, not necessarily; but it is unusually boring for what the premise suggests, which is not the movie that we ultimately get. Reynolds and Washington seem like a perfect match as far as charismatic action duos go, but they aren't given the proper material to work with and, despite their best efforts, even their best scenes have the tendency to fall flat. A buddy action-comedy this is not, but I have a feeling that it would have been at least ten times more entertaining if it had been. The stars look as if they want to have fun, but by the time the notion even crosses their minds, the movie's got them by the balls. And what a shame it is.

The cast on a whole gives solid performances, but the characters are far too one-dimensional and clich├ęd for us to care about any of them. "Safe House" does not seem very interested in challenging any of the conventions that plague most contemporary modern action movies and instead follows a routine that was worn out a long time ago. The film has an interesting, saturated visual look to it; but that doesn't really work to its advantage when the mediocre action sequences come around. I think the biggest problem with this film is that it doesn't really do much wrong; but at the same time, it doesn't really do much right either. It's uneven, un-exhilarating, and obviously very unfulfilling. There isn't so much to say about it as there is the typical descriptive language required to describe a crime thriller with the pretense that it is complex, interesting, and riveting; not to mention unpredictable. And oh, that's one thing that I know "Safe House" is not.

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More Safe House reviews
review by . February 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
In a complicated deadly game of international espionage things are rarely what they appear to be. Take the case of Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), a young man who, for all intents and purposes, appears to divide his time between his adoring French girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) and a South African hospital. But if one were to pull back the curtain they would learn that Matt is actually a CIA agent who spends his time watching over a safe house, an assignment of painfully tedious monotony. In the new …
review by . December 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Not Original or Innovative, But Definitely Visceral and Action-Packed
There is no question that Denzel Washington is one of the best actors of this generation. The man is enough to draw me out to see a movie in theaters, or at least rent out a movie on Dvd. Washington has pretty much starred in almost every genre, save for romantic movies. I have also seen Washington star in several action movies such as “Man on Fire” and his performance in “Training Day” as a crooked, scary Narc is one for the record books. Sure, his recent movies these days …
review by . February 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         It might be a stretch to think of Safe House as a coming of age film, as it’s structured and edited in the same way as an espionage action thriller. True enough, we have car chases, brutal hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, and a plot involving the acquisition and transportation of a secret file, which of course has dangerous international ramifications. But when you narrow in on the lead characters and really focus on their dialogue and actions, …
review by . February 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Safe House plays it all too safe.
SAFE HOUSE Written by David Guggenheim Directed by Daniel Espinosa Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds and Brendan Gleeson   Tobin Frost: Remember Rule no. 1 - You are responsible for your house guest. I am your house guest.   Despite the title, at no point in time while watching SAFE HOUSE will you feel anything close to safe. Director, Daniel Espinosa, an unproven talent in the industry before now, delivers a non-stop thrill ride that provides Denzel Washington with an …
review by . February 09, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Safe House' 'Two Jews On Film' Have Seen It All Before (Video)
         By Joan Alperin Schwartz      Rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) has been off the grid for the past ten years and he's been on the CIA'S most wanted list for the last decade.      CIA agent, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has been posted to a remote, empty Safe House in Capetown, South Africa for over a year.  He's job is to make sure the Safe House is always ready for 'visitors'. …
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Saw this on my 3 hour flight 2 days ago. A Denzel Washington movie and he did all the stunts himself, apparently. Didn't enjoy as much as his past movies but still reasonably entertaining to see him as a man on the run. A movie about dirty politics and corruptions running across the top American institutions.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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