Despite the fact that the two male leads add much to the film it ends up being an action film that follows along the usual twists and turns. It was almost like watching director Daniel Espinosa (Swedish director doing his first Hollywood film) do a paint by numbers. There were car chases followed by shoot ‘em ups and so on and so forth. During these chases and gunfights the camerawork was so all over the place I felt a little nauseous. Further into the film I began to understand what was the problem for me. Safe House is nothing more than a redux of other Denzel Washington films like Man on Fire or Training Day. A repeat and certainly not done as well as the latter.
The always cool Denzel Washington plays Tobias Frost an ex-CIA agent who had gone rogue and evaded capture for around a decade. Finally they get their hands on him only because he turns himself in and they then place him in a safe house. This is where Ryan Reynolds’ Matt Weston comes in. He is a present CIA agent with precious little experience charged with keeping an eye on Frost. When the safe house in South Africa is compromised by mercenaries Weston and Frost have to flee together. While on the run and trying to stay alive the two unlikely allies have to try and figure out who wants Frost dead.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Ryan Reynolds. As does any woman with eyes. But he is totally in the shadow of Denzel in this film. That is not a good thing because in this archetypal good versus evil tale he is the good. To have a fighting chance good has to be evil’s equal. Denzel is so cool and Ryan is such a boob that I ended up not caring who lived or who died. Which is weird because everyone in the film is risking their lives and it stirred nothing on the emotional level for me.
There are other talented actors in the film besides Reynolds and Washington. Brendan Gleeson and Vera Farmiga play suits in Washington. They are not onscreen very much and when they are they just seem to be reading a list of the awful things Frost has done and how they are going to get him back. Zzzzz…sorry, did I nod off? Wasting that kind of talent has to be some kind of sin.
Now not everyone will be turned off by the film. Those who don’t go to the theatre that often and are craving anything might look beyond the faults to just enjoy the violence and adrenaline of it all. Sadly I was not distracted by it. After the Bourne series of films the bar is set higher than this film seems able to attain.