Posted February 10, 2012 by Daniel Hodgson in
Given that we’ve seen the jaded veteran vs. good-hearted rookie before from Denzel’s Training Day, Safe House comes off as routine and uninspired, and the Greengrass-esque aethetic renders it unwatchable.
It’s a hard knock life for Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). He has a beautiful girlfriend, lives in an exciting city, and his job is far from stressful. How he goes on living like that on a daily basis, I’ll never know. Then one day, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), an ex-CIA agent gone rogue, is brought to the “safe house” Weston oversees all by his lonesome self. After Frost briefly undergoes enhanced interrogation (which is enhanced with “torture”) by the operatives who brought him in, mercenaries assault the building in order to get Frost. Weston escapes with Frost, and now everything that was missing in Weston’s life is there: car chases, gun fights, fist fights, and espionage intrigue. Mercs dutifully show up every fifteen minutes or so to get shot up, and it’s about half as exciting as it sounds.
Frost gives Weston a reality check. How did the mercs know about the safe house? It was a secure location. Only the agency knew about it, so therefore, someone high up wants Frost—but they wanted him alive, and Frost knows it. Weston realizes that Frost must have something they want; a file with sensitive information. But Frost gets away from Weston, and the agency tells Weston to come home. Weston won’t have any of it, and decides he’ll get his man—by himself, if he must.
In other words, it’s all far-fetched nonsense from the get-go. Frost knew what would happen if he turned himself in, but how did he know that Weston would save him from the mercs? In an early scene, Frost escapes assassination by waiting for a man dressed like him to exit the building before he did. Was it coincidence they dressed the same, or did Frost bribe the man to walk out wearing his clothes? It isn’t clear either way. I suppose it doesn’t matter. The story is in service of the action scenes, and the relationship between Weston and Frost.
Safe House borrows the look of The Bourne Supremacy or The Bourne Ultimatum, all shaky cameras and quick cutting—but without the same success. It’s too shaky, too cutty, and the approach obscures the action. Even the dialog scenes are hand held to match the look of the rest of the film, and Safe House borders on un-watchable at times. The stunts lack the ambition, and the fights lack the flamboyancy of the latter Bourne films, and there is none of the imagination that goes into the Mission: Impossible films, despite Safe House’s hefty price tag. Given that we’ve seen the jaded veteran vs. good-hearted rookie before from Denzel’s Training Day, Safe House comes off as routine and uninspired.