Just in case anyone is wondering why Safe House is being reviewed perhaps you should check out the Decade of Denzel piece that was posted last week. Needless to say, I made sure to do my part and help Denzel’s opening box office gross by going to see the movie this past Sunday. Much to my dismay (although perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised) the trailers definitely had a badassery of Denzel glow that the movie never fulfilled. This movie is much more a Ryan Reynolds movie than a Denzel one.
The aforementioned Reynolds plays a sort of “caretaker” for a safe house, which is supposed to be a place where international criminals that have just been taken into custody are interrogated and are placed until they have been extradited. In this case Denzel happens to be such a criminal (you have to LOVE ridiculous names where you can just tell the writer is sitting in his office all day trying to put together two badass name-ish words, in this case Tobin Frost). Surprise, surprise Reynolds’s safe house ends up being overrun by a terrorist group chasing after Denzel, and what he injected into his side in a bathroom at a posh restaurant within the first five minutes. The rest of the movie is an espionage “thriller” with action and twists abound.
Unfortunately it is all very cookie cutter stuff. Literally the movie idea could be a mad lib, just insert two random actors and an up-and-coming metropolis with espionage intrigue and you have Safe House. From the “cool” espionage jargon laden beginning – which I assume is supposed to tip us off that the writer did his research – to the fairly obvious twist that comes in the third act, the audience is left with the feeling that they’ve all seen this before. In fact the movie’s most entertaining parts may come from watching Ryan Reynolds trying to act serious throughout the entire movie. After the very opening he doesn’t crack a single joke and by looking at his face it is clearly seen how hard he is trying to act serious. Probably not a good thing if you are expecting a thrillride.
Much to my chagrin Denzel is horribly under utilized. There is next to no Denzel ass-kicking. In fact any sort of actiony stuff he did was done with such nonchalance that it came off as Denzel being bored as opposed to his character just going through the motions. Mr. Reynolds is in a knock-down, drag-out fight every ten minutes but Denzel barely does anything. Not to mention all of Reynolds’s hand-to-hand fights implement the hand-held, quick-cut style fad. Since when did it become ok to make a brawl feel like it is being shot while an earthquake is going on? Sometimes I’d like to be able to know who is winning the fight as opposed to trying to inject intensity and adrenaline by having your cameramen hopping on a bouncy castle that simultaneously moves side-to-side. I blame you Christopher Nolan. Denzel’s lack of action might not have been so bad if he had things to say although his character is also lacking for much worthwhile dialogue as well. Aside from a ridiculous car chase through Johannesburg where he kind of tries to break down Reynolds, Denzel does a lot of nothing. He is almost a prop and it is incredibly disappointing.
Now of course I wasn’t expecting this movie to be good, yet even with my low expectations I still came away extremely disappointed. The worst movies, however, are those that are neither bad nor good they are just there. Safe House falls under that category. It is as if the filmmakers knew it was going to be mediocre and so they played up to that strength. The action thriller lacks any thrills, any coherent action, and any movie redeeming Denzel badassness. Unfortunately Safe House will most likely become a staple on FX in four years, which is all the evidence needed to render a verdict of how average and uninspired this movie is.