Denzel Washington reprises his most common role as of late, aging badass. Safe House is far from an original idea that pushes us in a new direction. What it does is give us the same aging veteran shows young up and comer the ropes motifs that we have seen all too often. However, Safe House has one thing working in its favor…it’s actually good. Accompanied by the young inexperienced Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington kicks much ass and takes countless names. What I found the most interesting about Daniel Espinosa’s American movie debut was the obvious similarities and yet subtle differences of his shooting style compared to known American directors. Espinosa’s Safe House feels like a Tony Scott movie with a little pep in its step.
We start off with meeting Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who is an undercover CIA agent working at a safe house in Cape Town, South Africa. Let me just take a minute here to say that the location choice for this movie was superb. I really love the saturated colors that were used when shooting, which made Cape Town come alive, but I digress. Weston’s life is fairly mundane. He has a beautiful girlfriend who is planning to move to Paris in 2 months and he wants to follow. However, she doesn’t know about his day job as the lonely CIA agent who is dying to see some action. This is the weakest part of the movie, but it’s not hard to watch. Espinosa does well to make you sympathetic to Weston’s go-nowhere assignment and the promise of a better life.
After we get a look at the rose-colored glass view of Cape Town from Weston and his girlfriend we are introduced to the grittier underbelly of Cape Town. Enter Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost is an aging former CIA agent who went rogue 9 years ago. He is private enemy number one. When Frost makes a transaction that gets him on the radar of some unsavory characters the movie goes in a completely different direction. Upon the first action sequence we aren’t given much time to breathe after that. Characters and story are only used to weave a decent plot, but mostly to get us to the next great explosion, car crash, or gunfight. This is not to say you don’t enjoy them when you get there. On the contrary, the action beats are incredibly fast and insane, in a good way. The close shooting that Espinosa does makes for thrilling moments but can be irritating at times. The levels of action in Safe House far make up for any cliché plot points. This movie knows what it is, a damn fine action movie.
Reynolds and Washington have good chemistry on screen. The back and forth dialogue could have been lengthened as it was great but you didn’t get much of it. Neither actor overplayed their hand. Both worked well in the rolls they were given.
Overall if you are looking for a fun summer action type flick you won’t be disappointed. However, if you are looking for Espinosa to deliver a new take on international action you will be surely disappointed. I enjoyed this for its rather loud and abrasive manner, which it never apologizes. I was expecting a mediocre movie with slightly above average action. What I got was a good movie with a mediocre plot and great action, and I am ok with that.