If you learn just one thing from a movie called SAFE HOUSE is that these CIA enforced buildings are anything but safe- at least as depicted here. If you learn two things, the other is either the fact that Denzel Washington can play just about any type of smooth talking bad ass character you give him in his sleep or that when it comes to these types of movies, the villain reveal is wholly unsatisfying. I will say though that despite how generic and clichéd certain aspects of SAFE HOUSE are there are more than just a handful of things the film does right and raises it from simply standard fair to a thoroughly enjoyable thriller.
Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston who is a young CIA agent tasked with watching over a safe house. Weston finds himself in over his head when a suspected traitor, Tobin Frost, turns himself in to escape another organization trying to kill him and subsequently storm the safe house that Weston is in charge of so he escapes with Frost in custody and must fight off the slew of bad guys that are after them while also keeping Frost from escaping.
I find that more often than not when it comes to these types of thrillers that offer nothing spectacular and nothing horrifyingly bad that I have very little to say about the film in general. In the broadest of stokes I could break SAFE HOUSE down as simple as this- yes I enjoyed the movie, but I don’t picture myself ever watching it again. The reasons for such a simple breakdown are almost as unceremonious as the sentence itself.
I like Denzel Washington as much as the next guy or gal and I enjoyed his performance in this film- though nowhere near as much as I did in a movie like TRAINING DAY. Washington is good, but is he performance of the year good, no- not even if it’s the supporting actor category. Same goes for Ryan Reynolds- he’s good yet he doesn’t have the background that Washington has- in fact it’s the opposite as I’m still trying to shake his performance in GREEN LANTERN out of my head. Everyone else here in the cast are nothing but clichéd action/thriller fodder, there for info dumps and generic boring reveals. Passed the two leads there’s nothing here worth getting too excited about.
The story and action on the other hand is often as generic and uninspired as the character work and operates at nothing more than auto-pilot mode- though I’d give it a little more praise by saying SAFE HOUSE’s auto-pilot mode is at least a step down from high quality and several steps above the low end knock off model. The majority of the action here takes place in shootouts and for the most part some of the opening scenes carry a decent amount of tension especially as Reynolds is waiting in an interrogation room with Washington talking in his ear trying to convince him to get him out of there while you hear muffled shooting and fighting outside the door. The camera work and the cutting of the action serves as the least flattering aspect of the film- there were many moments I either wasn’t exactly sure who was winning or what exactly was even going down. Then again it may have been that I just didn’t care that much.
I wish I could sit work up enough excitement to bring up more of the good or bad that SAFE HOUSE has to offer. The fact of the matter is that it was a movie I sat down, watched, enjoyed and ultimately didn’t have strong feeling for or against it. It’s a film that may just be destined for a low rent bargain bin, but probably deserves a more discerning audience, but just for the sheer been-there-done-that filmmaking and the fact that nothing here really stands out it is at least a bargain bin title that has more bang for your buck. As negative as I may sound toward SAFE HOUSE, I should clarify that it is a film I could buy and watch again, just not one that I’m chomping at the bit to do so.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)