This movie is Denzil Washington’s latest. Here’s the plot: chase, chase, run, shoot, duck, waterboard, shoot, explosion, chase, more chase, quick romance, hide, escape, drive, car chase, shoot, blood, knife, die. This your cuppa tea, it’s a movie made for you.
Oh, Denzil, we thank you for your recent Tony Scott duet – “Unstoppable” and “Taking of Pelham 123”. We wondered what happened to make you choose, “The Book of Eli”, “Deja Vu” and “Man on Fire”. You’re fast becoming the king of the February movie slot. Not a good thing.
Anyway, “Safe House” centers around the sudden reappearance of rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzil) who enters a safe house supervised by bored agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). Denzil is carrying with him secrets that reveal a covern of corrupt Agents (CIA, MI6, you name it). Clearly they aren’t gonna let him reveal that list to the authorities . So someone (is it David Barlow – Brendan Gleeson- or Catherine Linklater – Vera Farmiga – or Harlan Whitford – Sam Shepard – the top brass of the CIA?) who is following his every move has to take him out. And has sent various nasty types to kill him. Do we care?
“Safe House” is a poor man’s “Bourne”. Daniel Espinosa has simply ripped off a number of the Bourne plots and devices; he’s even ripped off Paul Greengrass’ hand- held camera style and Tony Scott’s freneticism. You may remember, “Bourne Identity” began with Jason discovering an information capsule hidden in his side. Well Denzil has his (probably the same capsule actually) hidden in his leg. Karl Urban played Kirill in “Bourne Supremacy” – he was the nasty who had been sent to Goa to eliminate Bourne. His doppleganger in “Safe House” is Liam Cunningham – sent on a similar mission to get Denzil. “Bourne Supermacy” was about a rogue agent (Brian Cox as Ward Abbott) who had set up Bourne to take the blame for a sting gone wrong. Here it’s Brendan Gleeson who sets up Denzil. Sam Shepard is the David Strathairn (Noah Vosen of “Bourne Ultimatum”) equivalent.
But whereas Bourne offered us people who were passably real (the wonderful Joan Allen as Pamela Landy and the sympathetic Franka Ponente as his girlfriend Marie) in a wild adventure that make us willingly suspend our disbelief, this thin imitation offers fodder without nutrition.
Tobin (Denzel) is regarded, we are told on several occasions, as a master; someone who is envied for his incredible skills of manipulation. There is even a promising exchange at the beginning of the movie (after only about 20 people had been killed): Ryan says to him, “I’m not going to let you get into my head” and Denzil replies, “I already am in your head”. Nice. But that really goes nowhere and sadly, Tobin’s much vaunted skills of manipulation remain spoken of and never shown.
But, one good thing. Ryan Reynolds does emerge from this as actually showing a bit of chutzpah. He’s not just the pretty wimp he’s been in all of his movies. Maybe he should always act with blood running down his face