As the film, ‘Safe House’, begins, a British spy, played by Liam Cunningham, tells Denzel Washington’s American spy Tobin Frost: “You look good.” (He does, with French beard and a stud on his ear). Washington’s Tobin smiles his trademark smile and says, “I do, don’t I?” And you know why Washington agreed to do this movie. You can clearly see Washington enjoying the role. You wish the same were true about the audiences.
If there’s one actor I have admired equivocally, it has to be Denzel Washington, a first-rate actor. Therefore, it’s saddening to see him make those dumb action pictures year after year (‘Book of Eli’, ‘Unstoppable’, ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3’), especially with his long-time collaborator Tony Scott.
‘Safe House’, his latest is another Tony Scott picture not directed by Scott. It’s not a bad film, it looks good, Washington looks good, and he delivers, only that it’s a paint-by-number Hollywood actioner about spies and CIA secrets and foreign locations, smart action sequences involving cars and gun-fights — a poor cousin to those ‘Bourne’ movies (now, wait for another series of Bourne movies, this time with Jeremy Renner.). But, the film does not do justice to Washington’s towering talent, and sometimes, the film becomes quite inadequate to contain the cultivated charisma of its star.
Washington is Frost, a legendary CIA operative who has gone rogue, a traitor selling his country’s secrets to whoever would pay. But, when Washington is playing the man in question, you know there’s more than meets the eye, and you must survive the ordeals of a standard Hollywood actioner before the truth is revealed, and some under-developed characters, like Vera Farmiga as a CIA boss, is killed.
Oh, there’s Ryan Reynolds too in the mix. He is a handsome dude, but with questionable acting abilities. Here, however, he’s better than expected, almost matches with Washington (unlike in films like ‘Green Lantern’), which is a good thing.
Anyway, acting is not the highlight of the film, neither the story, plot points, they are all excuses to mount some action sequences, and ‘Safe House’ delivers these sequences pretty well. Not that you haven’t seen it done before!