Review: Safe House


Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by:David Guggenheim
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick
Released: February 9, 2012
Grade: B-

Ryan Reynolds works for the CIA and is a good guy.  Denzel Washington used to work for the CIA and is the bad guy.  This is because he’s selling top secret government intelligence to other bad guys.  Denzel doesn’t see himself as a bad guy however.  He thinks he’s the good guy and that what he’s doing is justified.

Denzel is captured and is being interrogated at a safe house in South Africa by other CIA good guys.  Unfortunately, the building is attacked by a group of mysterious bad guys who have a lot of guns and bombs and stuff.  Everyone is killed with the exception of Ryan and Denzel.  They flee the scene and Ryan is given orders by the good guys back in the United States to get Denzel to a “safer” safe house.

But are the folk back in the U.S. all good guys?  It doesn’t seem that way.  How else would the bad guys have known about the safe house and Denzel’s location there?  It appears someone is leaking information.  This would certainly make them a bad guy.  Perhaps even a bad girl?  I shouldn’t be sexist because that would certainly make me a bad guy.  We can’t have that.

So who are the good “people” and who are the bad “people”?  That’s pretty much what this action-thriller boils down to.  The story fits together far too neatly but I admit that it held my attention and I was curious to see the story would unfold.

On the plus side, Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are both great.  I’d expect nothing less from Mr Washington (given the two Oscars he has sitting on his mantelpiece at home) but Mr Reynolds caught me off guard.  I liked him a lot.  His character is completely out of his element (at least at the start) and endures a few savage beatings... all designed so that you’ll be rooting for him to finish on top.

The film’s action sequences are also very good.  The introduction is a touch slow but the film shifts gear with a crazy car chase sequences through the streets of Cape Town.  The editing is precise and you won’t be able to hear the munching of popcorn over the deafening sound effects.  It’ll get the blood pumping.

On the negative side, the film was too serious for my liking.  It’s an insane, relatively predictable storyline and you’d think they’d be able to weave more humour into the mix.  At the packed preview screening I attended, there were only a couple of scenes that generated a slight chuckle.  Perhaps my expectations were misaligned with those of the filmmakers.

As I alluded to above, the plot could have also used some work.  Denzel and Ryan are forever chasing each other around town – first one gets the upper hand and then the momentum switches.  It drags on for too long and you’ll be anxious to get to the finale where everyone’s true colours are revealed.  Whilst I won’t give anything away, I can’t say I was too surprised by the ending.

I wouldn’t describe it as memorable piece of cinema but if you’re a fan of these two actors or you enjoy a half-decent action film, it’s worth the price of admission.