Safe House Movie Review

Decent, in a standard way.

I am a Denzel Washington fan, and something I learned while watching his best (in my opinion) movie Training Day is he is way more entertaining as a bad guy than a good guy which is why Safe House works for me.  However, I think one of the main reasons I like Denzel Washington is he actually has a really good eye for scripts and manages to stay away from obvious dogs.  His discriminating tastes is the main reason I will see anything he opts to work on.

That being said, the script for Safe House is on the far end of the good script spectrum for Denzel, almost bordering on the mediocre.  Honestly, if this movie hadn’t had Mr. Washington’s precise delivery and perfect acting ability the flaws in the script would have risen up like scum on the surface of a stagnant pond and filled the theater with the odor of decaying organic matter. The story latches onto every spy movie cliche like a remora eel and the events connecting the assorted action sequences are tenuous at best, with plot devices so far removed from what would actually make sense that it sometimes feels like you are watching them through a telescope in another solar system.

As for Ryan Reynolds and his performance, I am torn.  On the one hand, in his last few efforts (Green Lantern in particular.  Green Lantern shirt image courtesy of the Comic Book T-Shirt category) I have railed against him constantly playing Van Wilder over and over again; the sleezy pretty party boy who can’t help but smarm and sleep with anything remotely attractive in the movie and to be fair in this film he manages to avoid that role completely.  He is a serious and career minded CIA operative with a girlfriend he loves deeply.  On the other hand, he seems to alternate between looking completely helpless and being a young James Bond.  I can’t even say this was the result of a decent character arc, with him being inexperienced at the beginning and developing into a hard case by the end.  Instead the movie changes gears back and forth without warning, with his character either hiding in a dark corner (literally) or ruthlessly gunning down whatever gets in his way.

The story is of young Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds-Green Lantern, the Change Up, Buried), a CIA operative who is basically a hotel keeper at a secret safe house in Cape Town.  Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington-Training Day, Man on Fire, Inside Man) is a traitor and super spy who gets himself captured.  He is placed in Matt’s safe house where a team of Aryan Army looking CIA guys are going to water board and torture him for whatever he was doing in Cape Town (selling some top secret information, but honestly the actual reasons for most of the movie seem pretty inconsequential).  While they are in the process another team of guys attacks and kills pretty much everyone.  Watson takes Tobin out at gunpoint and the long, long chase begins.  He is being pursued by some bad guys while being ordered by his superiors to do different dumb stuff.  Tobin is a master of human manipulation and works on getting into Matt’s head.

Honestly, I can’t get much more into the story without more or less giving it all away.  Spy hijinks ensues.  Stuff blows up.  Guys get shot.  There are about as many cliches as bullets fired, including the ending.

The stars.  Denzel Washington.  Two stars.  Denzel Washington playing a villain rather than a hero.  One star.  The action was all pretty good and exciting, if a little repetitive.  One star.  The romance subplot, which normally would I find distracting and worthless, actually added a lot to the story.  It gave Tobin a real tool to get into Matt’s head and screw with him, which added a lot to the story.  One star.  The interaction between Tobin and Matt was really well done, and pulled you into the story in many ways that the plot did not.  Two stars.  Generally entertaining.  Two stars.  Total: nine stars.

The black holes.  Weak script.  Two black holes.  Inconsistent tone from Ryan Reynold’s character.  One black hole.  Spy story cliches we have all seen in about fifty movies, including the ending.  One black hole.  Some pretty gaping plot holes.  One black hole.  Total: five black holes.

A grand total of four stars.  Not bad, but to be honest not what I expect from a movie Denzel Washington chooses to star in.  Also, if anyone else had been cast in his role the movie probably would have swung into the black hole zone.  Worth seeing?  Sure, if you don’t want to follow the plot too closely.  The action is the best part after Denzel’s performance, so it might be worth seeing on a big screen.  Date movie?  Meh.  Maybe, if she is into this sort of thing, or Denzel Washington (or, for that matter, Ryan Reynolds).  On the other hand odds are you will suffer in comparison to either of those two guys, so consider it carefully.

Thanks for reading.  More movies coming out this weekend.  I will probably see the Vow, about as chick flick as a movie can get.  If I am feeling the need to expel mass quantities of bile I might see Mysterious Island 2 but I can already tell how that is going to suck.  I am torn regarding seeing The Phantom Menace 3D.  On the one hand I don’t want to give even a dime to support such mediocre movie making or George Lucas.  On the other hand, since I did not have this blog going when I first saw it I might enjoy doing the review.  I think what I might do is buy a ticket for a movie that I like (Chronicle, for example) and then just sneak in to the other theater.  I have some 3D glasses lying around here somewhere.  Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu.  I’ve noticed I don’t get a ton of comments for specific requests or blog ideas so if you would like to contact me without posting simply email me feel free to do so at  Talk to you soon.



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