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Safe House Movie Review & Trailer

Review Date: February 9, 2012 at 8:40 PM ET

In Theaters February 10, 2012

Review by Angel Navedo for


Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga, Robert Patrick, Nora Arnezeder, Liam Cunningham, Joel Kinnaman, Ruben Blades


With frequent action beats dispersed across the film to distract you from predictable plot points, Safe House reminds you that the destination doesnít always matter if you can appreciate the journey. Itís not that Swedish director Daniel Espinosa made a bad film. Itís that the elements carrying the viewer from prologue to conclusion all feel immensely familiar.

Safe House, like the Bourne franchise before it Ė with bits of the dreadful Salt and The Recruit secret-agent flicks sprinkled in Ė centers upon corrupt intelligence officials and the well-trained but unlikely heroes uniting to expose the devastating truth.

Doe-eyed rookie Matt Weston, played very well by the evolving Ryan Reynolds, is a bright but inexperienced CIA ďhousekeeper,Ē pining for a new assignment with more action. And thatís when the elusive ex-CIA operative Tobin Frost falls into his lap Ė only after snapping a neck and evading an elaborate assassination attempt, of course.

It was, however, too literal and hackneyed for Frost to be portrayed with so much of Denzel Washingtonís natural cool. Despite his powerful presence, Washington is caricaturizing his former roles. Itís a recognizable blend of Man on Fireís Creasy and Training Dayís Alonzo Harris. That doesnít mean that it doesnít work, but itís becoming increasingly difficult to watch a Denzel Washington movie without seeing Denzel Washington.

Once Weston and Frost are brought together, Espinosa sends us through a series of gun battles, high-speed chases, extremely tight shots of hand-to-hand combat, and CIA situation room briefings shoehorned into the movie for exposition.

It worked best when Frost manipulated his situation at a crowded soccer match to manage an escape from Weston. But the film was at its worse when the usually strong Vera Farmiga phoned in her performance as an unreasonably stubborn and illogical intelligence officer.

The problem here is that the film foreshadows with a vivid spotlight. All the red herrings are immensely transparent while Frostís actual motives are shrouded in secrecy. His revelation as the film climaxes falls flat because the film tiptoes around showing us the rogue, international criminal everyone says he is.

This is particularly troublesome because the information heís hoping to expose completely contradicts the nature of the character. Itís implied that heís used his skills to profit for nearly a decade, yet the conclusion suggests a noble motive. Itís not believable and borders lazy.

When Jason Bourne becomes Pretty Woman, weíre left watching formulaic romantic comedies for men, masquerading as spy-driven action thrillers. Gone is the wit that carries the James Bond franchise, replaced by convoluted twists for the sake of a twist. Itís like Kate Hudson or Jennifer Lopez looking for love in their movies, except weíre given assault rifles and betrayal instead of roses and ice cream pints.

That doesnít suggest that itís always dreadful, or even unwatchable. Safe House succeeds because the leading men are two of the most charismatic actors working today. You just have to appreciate the scenic route. 







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