When it comes to Denzel Washington, ever since he won his second Acadamy award for acting for the 2001 movie Training Day, he’s been playing a similar way, which is when he eats up the screen and overshadows everybody he is working with. It’s slowing becoming the Denzel movie starring Denzel and a bunch of other people.
Such is the case for his new movie Safe House, a movie that within all rights can be compared to many, many aspects of Training Day, including the fact that Denzel is throughout the entire movie, and makes everyone else completely overshadowed.
The movie starts off with Ethan Hawke and his girlfriend and they’re … Oh wait, I meant Ryan Reynolds and his girlfriend being together. My bad, I thought this was Training Day again. Anyway, Ryan Reynolds is in South Africa, watching over a C.I.A. Safe House, which is a discreet area for spy prisoners to be temporarily held until they are to be transported back to America to get the justice we think they deserve. So his job, which is called throughout as a housekeeper, means that he does nothing, and would rather be out in the field doing anything else but nothing. We’ve seen this veriation of foreshadowing before in other movies, where the character wants more excitement in his life, and gets it in a “Be careful what you wish for” motif.
Denzel comes into the scene as an ex agent gone rogue, wanted in many countries, and is looking for a specific file to sell to the black market. He is eventually found out by some not-good guys, and with nowhere else to turn, he walks into a U.S. Consulate where he’s sent to aforementioned safe house.
Now throughout that first part there are two things I have to ask the C.I.A., since I have their attention. One, if this file, the one that would blow the lid on serious corruption on everyone involved, and would cause major chaos and investigation, then I have to ask, Why in Zod’s green earth would such a file exist? Why would you spend all these years compiling a list of all corrupt agents and keep it in a box in the corner assuming no one would ever give it to the wrong hands? It just seems illogical? Also, doesn’t it seem that, according to all spy-based movies I have seen, that all exceptional agents eventually go rogue and start selling secrets to terrorist organizations? If that really is happening, then shouldn’t you, you know, prevent exceptional agents from finding out said information and even consider selling it to the next highest bidder? Just asking.
Within the movie, there are a lot of action scenes, including a whole whack load of guns, a couple car chases, and a one-on-one fisticuffs between Reynolds and some unknown. Now, ideally, when action scenes outnumber the number of story scenes, then pesky things like plot should be given a pass. But it still has the potential to say that it’s not a great film, and this movie almost falls into that bin. If the action scenes were memorable and grabbing, then we can talk. But they use the shakey cam to lose the audience. At that point, the gun scenes turn into over hyped paintball fighting, waiting for one of the actors to scream, “Hey no fair Tom, I hit you, you’re supposed to be dead”.
One of the biggest issues I have with this movie is the predictability. If you plan on having twists in the movie, you really should make extra sure that the twists can’t be seen a mile away. By the time you get to the shocking revelations, you already saw it coming seconds beforehand. Even if you boil it down to two different paths it makes, that’s still a 50% chance you know what’s going to happen. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing, but when it’s consistently throughout, it ruins the movie-going experience.
The other major issue I have with this film is what seems to be a lack of common sense. It seems like the logical thing to do is ignored with the path that leads to more forced tension, and streched out plot lines. Let me give you a prime example. There is a scene in the opening where Reynolds is supposed to protect Washington, but they are about to be chased by bad guys in cars, so Reynolds tells him to get in the trunk. As soon as he said that, two major issues I had came through my head, and it turns out they happened in one way or another. First, if you throw him in the trunk, then he has a chance to plot some scheme in there to either escape through the trunk door, or through the back seat where you are sitting comfortably and helplessly in the driver seat, or wait patiently to jump you when you let him back out of the car, possibly with a weapon if he finds that pesky tire iron. And the other thing is, contrary to popular film lore, bullets hitting a car, no matter which part you are shooting, would make the man you are protecting a sitting duck. And you know they have guns, because they were just shooting at you, and bullets would go through the trunk like a pencil through a piece of paper, hitting your prisoner, and turning him into foie gras. And while I am steaming, why in the name of all that is good, did the intellegence agency place a much needed device for a rookie escorting a criminal in a populous area so that the criminal can make an escape much easier?
Oh, and the love interest was pointless and felt shoehorned. Really, why was that in there? We don’t see enough of actress Nora Arnezeder to even determine whether she’s pretty or not, let alone if she can act.
Reynolds and Washington look like they can work together, but despite all the screen time together, there is no chance for them to show their true potential as a duo. If this was a buddy movie, then we could have seen something. But as it stands, Denzel overshadows Reynolds and any chance he can show some talent. And we know Reynolds has the skills, but he didn’t here, and that’s a shame. In the end, it felt like wasted talent.
Overall the movie feels like a watered down Bourne movie. There’s nothing to offer and there’s little to show for it other than a chance for Denzel to be cool. Don’t get me wrong, the movie didn’t suck, but it was missing a lot, and I can’t justify recommending the movie for theatres. Wait until the movie comes out cheaper to give it a shot, like on television, or Netflix, or something. There’s no need to rush out and see it, and pay good money to see it.