By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Fermiga, Ruben Blades, and Robert Patrick.
Safe House is one of those movies that could have gone either way. With Reynolds in the lead, it seemed like a total miscasting job. After all, this was a role where he wasn’t the ‘snide guy with snappy comeback’ guy. Washington, you usually can’t lose though, as even with his less than decent films (John Q being an example) he is always someone who you can root for. However, the previews to this thing made it look like he was anything BUT those roles where you care for him, and more like his anti-cop role from Training Day, which is a movie I know is very loved (and nabbed him his second Oscar) but I felt ran out of steam about 2/3 in. And, with me being solely on the fence about Reynolds’ ability to pull off a role with weight, I went into this screening with little or no expectations.
Overall, I would say Safe House leaned more on the exciting and involved side of things as far as action films are concerned. First of all, kudos to Reynolds. With the role of Matt Weston, he proves that he can in fact do serious type roles, and don’t be surprised if he is in more dramatic films after this. Even if the concept of someone being in the CIA safe house guarding business has all the makings of unbelievability at its max, you really believe his greenness (without the lantern) here the way cold sweats and general nervousness consumes him in the beginning of this film. In fact, most of the quips in this movie belong to Washington, who, as always, is good in his decent (if slightly overwritten) role of CIA turncoat Tobin Frost. His cold evil smiles and psychological warfare he shares with Weston makes for good times, but, much like his earlier Training Day, the way his character is developed throughout the course of the film does leave a lot to be desired. I would like, just one time, to see what Washington could do with a flat out evil character (that doesn’t involve turning on his country or police force). The cast is rounded out by Fermiga (who is in a role that really reminded me of her in last year’s Source Code), and Brendon Gleeson from In Bruges. They are fine in their roles, if slightly underused. Fermiga especially is really only there to drive the plot forward with her constant observations and histories given on the characters of Frost and Weston. There’s even the presence of action stars past Blades (Predator 2) and a gray-goateed Patrick (Terminator 2) in small roles.
As for the action, you really can’t ask for more. Even if the last 15 minutes or so kind of drags on, newcomer Daniel Spinosa directs with an energy that would make frequent Washington collaborator Tony Scott proud. With his shaky camera technique and loud (this was the first time in a long time I was almost covering my ears in a theater) effects, Spinosa stages an early car chase and shootout within the safe house in question very well. There’s even a fight within a car. With its nicely staged action and everyone turning on everyone else storyline, I can see this movie leading Spinosa to being a player in the action genre much like Paul Greengrass has become the last decade or so. Safe House is a fun ride that sees one actor doing what he does best and another really grow into his own. And, despite its plot holes and occasional ridiculousness, is definitely worth the price of admission. I say check it out. If only to see some greatly staged action and Washington & Reynolds play the always fun turncoat game of cat and mouse.
3.5 out of 5