09 February 2012

Safe House is Generic

Safe House is the latest movie starring Denzel Washington playing Denzel Washington as only Denzel Washington can. Director Daniel Espinosa tries his best to impersonate frequent Denzel collaborator Tony Scott. In other words, this movie is not for the crowd that gets motion sick from shaky cam.

Safe House opens in Cape Town, South Africa, where Matt Weston (Reynolds) is a “housekeeper” for a CIA safe house. We are introduced to his mundane life and his hot exotic French girlfriend, Ana (Nora Arnezeder). He calls his CIA contact David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) to inquire about a transfer to Paris. Barlow tells him to hold tight and that Weston needs more field experience.

Next up, we meet Tobin Frost (Washington) as he makes a pick-up from a crooked MI6 agent. Frost then injects what he picked up into his body for safe keeping. What he has is a file of corrupt government agents from many government agencies from many nations. When Frost leaves the drop point, a group of people try to kill him. As an escape tactic, Frost makes his way to the US Embassy.

Finally, we meet two other CIA agents who are alerted to Frost turning himself in. Agent Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) is a counterpart to Agent Barlow, and Agent Harlan Whitford is their superior. From here, we find out that Frost is an ex-CIA agent who went rogue and sold government secrets to the highest bidder. He is highly trained in psychology and a great manipulator.

After an extraction team fails to get the information from Frost, and a firefight, Weston and Frost are on the run. Weston is a true blue American hero wannabe. Frost makes him question everything he believes in. Of course, Frost is trying to escape from West so that he is not tried for treason. Weston is then thought to be in cahoots with Frost because Weston does not obey his orders. So, your typical cat-and-mouse games follow as everyone is trying to get what they want.

To call Safe House generic would be a drastic understatement. David Guggenheim’s script has no original thoughts in it whatsoever. He even employs the dreaded “mole in the agency” schtick. It is set up early that either Barlow or Linklater is a bad guy. This is beat into your head repeatedly throughout the film.

Even Espinosa’s direction is generic and lame. He uses all the cliché shot compositions common to action sequences. His tight steady cam shots only telegraph action is about to happen. Then, these scenes are fast and furious, hard to tell what is even happening; then, it is back to boredom for another fifteen minutes.

None of the acting is anything extraordinary. Denzel is Denzel. Reynolds is out of his element in a dramatic role. Gleeson delivers a painful American accent. Shepard and Farmiga phone it in. Even Ramin Djawadi’s score seemed a bit generic. His work on HBO’s Game of Thrones is far better than this.

By not having a single bit of “wow factor” in it, Safe House is a slow, bland two hour spy film. I was entertained enough to not hate it, but I can hardly recommend paying the admission price to see this in theaters. This would be better suited for a Redbox rental when it hits the home market in a few months. As my buddy said, “Hey, at least it was better than Skyline.”

RATING: 4.5/10

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