Woo-hoo, it’s CIA action porn when Safe House finally gets going, all mysterious black SUVs and “kill the surveillance cameras” and stoic badassery all around. It’s sort of exciting, apparently, for Ryan Reynolds’ Matt Weston, the “housekeeper” at a safe house in South Africa—he finally gets to do something CIA-ish! Mostly he’s just been lying on the beach with his gorgeous French girlfriend, we’re told.
Now he gets to run around with Denzel Washington, because Denzel is “notorious traitor” and “rogue CIA agent” Tobin Frost, who was brought into the safe house by not-rogue, un-traitorous CIA agents. Then bad guys who are after Frost bust in. Never fear: Frost and Weston escape and go on the run. Weston thinks he has Frost in custody, but …
Ack. Nevermind. All the “intrigue” is just a way for newbie screenwriter David Guggenheim to hide the fact that he’s got nothing to say that we haven’t seen before. Safe House cops out in every way it can: The MacGuffin that Frost carries and that the bad guys are after has the potential to say something authentic about how international relations are conducted these days, as well as about the police state we seem to be falling into, but that is completely squandered. None of it is as brave or even as captivating as it appears to think it is, and the film has nowhere near the conscience it would like you to think it has by the time it’s done throwing some car chases and showers of broken glass at you.
Even the attempts to cover up the utter vapidness of the film fall short of distinguishing themselves. Safe House looks and feels like a thousand other similar movies, and does nothing but tread water in the genre. It’s an inauspicious transition to Hollywood for Swedish director Daniel Espinosa, although, who knows? Maybe his Swedish stuff isn’t very distinctive, either.
Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds