Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flick of the Day: Safe House

Once upon a time in a far away place full of Stallone's, Van Damme's, numerous James Bond's and even the odd Michael Caine, producing an average action thriller was entirely acceptable in the movie making business. Sure as night follows day, average would be enough to deliver a handsome box office return. Then along came the joint creation of Robert Ludlum, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass that was Jason Bourne and in one fell swoop changed the landscape of the genre. Bond became blonde, boundaries were pushed and average was no longer acceptable. Pity then, if you can find it in your heart, the makers of today's flick of the day Safe House.
Ryan Reynolds is the star of the show as Matt Weston, a low level CIA functionary who looks after a safe house in Cape Town. Keen to move up he spends his days keeping the place clean and pestering his mentor David Barlow played by Brendan Gleeson for a promotion. One day he gets an unexpected new guest, a rogue agent named (and this could only happen in this movie) Tobin Frost played by the always a good guy apart from this and Training Day, Denzel Washington. Tobin has given himself up to the authorities after a career of selling out information has led to him running for his life from a gang of unknown operatives on the streets of Cape Town. Of course as is the way with these things, this gang follows him to the safe house and after an entertaining gun battle Matt and Tobin are on the run. As the small army of gunmen chase them, Matt struggles to keep Tobin alive while trying to get to the bottom of why he is being chased and who they are.
It is unfortunate that the movie going public have become so demanding in terms of genre pictures like this for while it doesn't break any new ground, there is much to enjoy here. Some of the actions scenes are quite spectacular, particularly an exciting chase scene through a township. The twist in the tale is obvious enough with the usual Hollywood hint of it being the one guy nobody mentions but it's well played out all the same. As to the performances, all are passable without being overly memorable. Ryan Reynolds comes across as too much of a pretty-boy for his role but then that's hardly his fault while Gleeson and Sam Shepard bring some heavyweight acting talent. Vera Farmiga is criminally underused in a role that is fleshed out only enough to allow a twist in the plot.
Washington is playing a role he has played on numerous occasions over the past few years in a slew of largely forgettable action pictures, many of them directed by Tony Scott. It's not a bad persona and this film is a cut above those pictures.
Tobin Frost: I think you need to consider how your safe house was attacked in the first place. That house was a secure location. Whoever crashed it, they were invited. Someone told them, someone you know... 
Matt Weston: You're not gonna get in my head. 
Tobin Frost: I am already in your head!
All in all, this is really not a bad film by any means, it just doesn't cover any new ground. Despite that it is enjoyable, there are some excellent action scenes and the South African location is a good selling point and the cast deliver decent performances where they can. Worth a look in these post-Bourne times.

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