Movie Review: Safe House

By Stephen Rebello

Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds star in the latest shoot 'em up film Safe House.

Director: Daniel Espinosa

MPAA Rating: R

Studio: Relativity Media

Denzel Washington fans may go rushing to the new rogue-CIA-man-on-the-run action thriller Safe House hoping for another Training Day. Ryan Reynolds fans may go rushing to the movie hoping the actor might finally turn up in something watchable.  For both actors’ diehard fans and adrenalin junkies alike, Safe House delivers 115 minutes of jacked-up sound, fury, a relentless mash-up of car chases, double-crosses, gun play and overblown bone-crunching, all sparked by the pursuit of one hell of a missing microchip encoded with lots of politically incriminating info.

If you’re looking for originality, forget it; this one’s a can of day-old Red Bull, a big, whopping dose of still-Bourne. Too obviously worshiping at the altar of directors like Paul Greengrass and Tony Scott, the Daniel Espinosa directed, David Guggenheim scripted flick (filmed in intense Shaky-Cam in shades of cool Bourne blue) hinges on a played-out premise. There’s an idealistic, ambitious young CIA operative (the too-nice Reynolds, in good form) having to go on the run after a bloody, highly suspicious attack on a South Africa safe house holding for interrogation a badass, incredibly savvy renegade CIA vet (Washington, also good).

This is the kind of movie that wastes skilled actors like Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson, in Bourne movie style, snarling lots of CIA chatter and posing before big computer displays while speculating whether Reynolds has also gone rogue. Meanwhile, it becomes painfully obvious that there is an enemy within the CIA ranks. Now a target, our shadowy hero darts all around South Africa trying to ferry Washington to yet another not-so- safe house while bullets fly, bad guys crash over and over into an assortment of getaway vehicles, stunt doubles are sent flying through windows and armies of anonymous villains keep popping up like targets in a shooter video game.

For those looking to check their brains at the door, Safe House provides a succession of blurry pictures to chomp junk food by. If you’re up for this sort of thing, it’s enjoyably predictable with its professional sheen, grinding relentlessness, head-smacking obvious “surprise” twists and cloak-and-dagger intrigue. Still, the slightly “off” but still effective play between Washington and Reynolds keep the thing moving most of the time, even if it feels like a trailer for one Bourne flick too many.

About the Author

Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interviews and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.


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