“Safe House” – Review by Christian Becker

Safe House
was a movie I was really looking forward to seeing, because it didn’t look like the typical February release that often comes out around these early months. I was also really hoping this movie would be a success, because I am one of the few who actually like Ryan Reynolds and after Green Lantern and The Change-Up both bombed, I really wanted him to have a hit. So far, my wish has come true. Safe House is officially a financial winner. But how is the actual movie?

Well, I can first say that I was somewhat disappointed by it. I was really hoping for this to be something new and exciting that I can latch onto and look at it as a “new” Bourne instead of just a “copy” of Bourne. The story revolves around a character named Matt Weston (Reynolds) as a safe house keeper in Cape Town, South Africa. Weston sits around all day only dreaming of getting some action out in the field. From this part of the story alone I knew I was in, because I love the idea of a rookie striving to be more but he’s stuck in a lower level job that gets them no satisfaction. I think that’s something we can all relate to every now and then.

Where it really starts to lose focus, and the audience, is when we are no longer in the actual safe house. The agency brings in a fugitive, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), who is has turned himself in for his own protection. I’m not really sure if its a spoiler or not to tell you why he is wanted in the first place, so I’ll just leave that out. But don’t worry, its for a good reason! Washington is fantastic in the role, but that’s almost a cliche to say today, because you know in any movie he is in, Denzel will always give it his all and leave you stunned by his amazing character work. But like I said, the problems are not with the acting.

The story goes from interesting and entertaining, to dull and unoriginal once the Weston and Frost have left the safe house after having it infiltrated by a group of strangers. The action scenes and getaway chases are just as cool as they look in the trailer, but everything in between just falls flat. I would have loved some intelligent interplay between Weston and Frost and had them take part in interesting conversations while taking a breather. Throughout the movie, the agency references Tobin Frost as this kind of “psychological mastermind”, but is barley any evidence of that being true. Despite Denzel being flat out awesome and Ryan Reynolds giving quite possibly the greatest performance of his career, the characters they play turn out to be a little flatter than expected.

The action delivered here is really cool to watch. Everything from car chases to hand to hand combat is delivered at a break neck pace to assure the audience is getting their moneys worth. The one complaint I had while watching everything, action or not, unfold is the way it was edited. Things seemed very strangely put together, and maybe you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about if you’ve already seen the movie, but editing is something you don’t really notice to often in a movie, and here it was sometimes distracting and annoying.

This was directed by little known Swedish director, Daniel Espinosa, who I really hope has a future in making more American films. I just hope he can find his own style of story and action instead of borrowing from favorites like Tony Scott or Paul Greengrass. Espinosa can undoubtedly handle an exciting action movie, but if he wants to continue making them, he needs to find a new approach to telling his stories.

I know everything here sounds like “dislikes” than “likes”, but I don’t enjoy a good amount of what was on screen. There was just a lot that kept it from being the personal hit I wanted it to be. I can mildly recommend Safe House on a pure action basis (especially if you are a hard core Denzel Washington fan). Just don’t walk in having high expectations. Because if you feel like you’ve seen this kind of movie before, chances are, you have!

Grade: B-

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