“Safe House” Movie Review

     The new film "Safe House" is really not much of a new film at all.  It's a story that has been told a number of times before and you won't find much here to separate it from previous efforts.  Stop me if you've heard this one before.  You have two main characters.  One is an up and coming CIA Agent who's bored with his present assignment and wants more action.  The other is a grizzled veteran, credited with everything from creating procedure to apprehending some of the biggest bad guys.  Both are considered rogue at some point during the story and they are overseen by crooked bureaucrats at home. This all should sound familiar. Whether you conjure up images of Pacino and Farrell in "The Recruit" or Crowe and DiCaprio in "Body of Lies", your basically getting the same thing here just with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds.

     Washington plays Tobin Frost, a veteran CIA Agent who has been off the map for the last nine years.  Through his dealings, he has come into possession of incriminating information about several of the world's intelligence agencies, including the CIA, and is now being hunted in Cape Town, South Africa by armed gun men intent on getting this data back.  When he is cornered, Frost essentially is forced to turn himself in by entering the US consulate.  Reynolds' character, Matt Weston, is the caretaker of the safe house that Frost is brought to for interrogation.  Shortly after the CIA team arrives to begin the interrogation, the safe house is attacked and this gives Weston the chance to escape with Frost.

     It is here director Daniel Espinosa really excels as he puts our characters through some pretty slick action sequences.  Yes, there's not much new and you've seen similar stuff in the "Bourne" films, but the action is so frenetic and well paced that the audience can't help but be jolted at times.  Once Frost and Weston are on the run, the film is really just an hour long thrill ride with a few stops so as the characters can catch their breath and exchange some unmemorable dialogue.  Perhaps that's where the film really falters.  David Guggenheim's script doesn't deliver the types of exchanges between the characters that really could have made "Safe House" a much better film. 

     There are welcome and solid appearances by actors such as Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air"), Robert Patrick ("T2"), and Brendon Gleeson ("Gangs of New York") yet none of them are given anything juicy to say or do.  To be an effective character actor, you have to be given your moments.  These three seem to be left with nothing to do.  I have to say I was quite pleased to see Ryan Reynolds succeed in his role.  He probably had the worst year of any lead actor in 2011 ("The Green Lantern", "Change Up"), yet here he seems to be game or least properly cast for once.  Reynolds performance is gritty and plays well opposite the always effective Denzel Washington.

     With the A-List cast, you'd expect a film like this to be playing in the summer or fall.  After seeing it though, you realize quickly why the studio put a Denzel Washington movie in February.  The finished product is just run of the mill.  As a simple escapist entertainment though, I hardly believe you would be disappointed.  GRADE: C+