If it wasn't for Denzel's presence in this, "Safe House" would normally be one of those flicks that I would have waited for it to get to Redbox. Maybe even cable. There was nothing remarkable about that trailer that stood out to me to show that it was worth seeing. Except for the fact it had Deznel in it. So there I was opening day dropping my $7.50 (matinee price) to see if both he and Ryan Reynolds could turn a so-so trailer into a worthwhile movie.
Washington plays Tobin Frost, the most dangerous renegade spy the CIA has ever known. He mysteriously pops back on the grid after a decade on the run. He is immediately detained and one of his first stops is a South African safe house manned by rookie operative Matt Weston (Reynolds). When the safe house is compromised and eventually breached, Weston has to go on the run with Frost to keep them alive long enough to find out who wants them dead.
I was hoping that I was wrong about the plot when I saw the trailer. Was it really something as elementary as crooked authorities are looking to kill a prisoner and one honest official tries to keep him alive? How many times have we seen this now? Unfortunately, that's exactly what "Safe House" was. They really could not have come up with a more simplistic storyline. I'm rather surprised that Washington would sign up for something like this. The material was so beneath him that it wasn't even funny.
I have often said that if a movie is so transparent that even I can figure out the twist and/or who the undercover bad guy is then they're doing something wrong. You could pick out the mole in this one immediately. They really should have gotten some better acting out of him/her to avoid that. Or it would have helped even more if they would have avoided trying to be so stereotypical altogether.
But when it comes to performances that may have been the one thing that did save this movie. Namely Denzel's. They can make him sport the nappy hair all they want and match it with unkempt appearance and he can STILL turn a dramatic role out the box. He makes the Frost character a mixture of someone you would be terrified of while at the same time admiring. The perfect anti-hero.
As for Reynolds, he's already proven that he can hang with the best of them when he puts enough effort into it. I still haven't seen "Green Lantern" to know if it's as bad as the critics said, but if it was then he's back to redeeming himself here. There are plenty of moments where his character Weston is torn between doing what he was trained to do and doing what his gut is telling him to do. Reynolds convincingly brings that across in his performance without having to verbalize it. He plays extremely well off Denzel so the two on screen together give us something fun to watch.
What wasn't too fun to watch here was the fighting sequences. Too many of them were edited very choppily and quite honestly rather sloppily. They were entirely too close so you couldn't see what was going on. It's something that I noticed seems to be common whenever aging stars try to do action films. They did it a lot in "The Book of Eli" and (as much as I hate to draw this comparison) "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". Either do it right or don't do it at all.
"Safe House" definitely is not without its issues. Chief among those being the fact that the story itself is very non-existent. However, you can thank both Denzel and Ryan for making it a movie worth seeing. Although I do now think that I would have been okay waiting for this to get to Redbox.
My rating: B -