Review: SAFE HOUSE (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Review: SAFE HOUSE (2012)


Swedish-born helmer Daniel Espinosa (2010's EASY MONEY) makes his first Hollywood directing debut in SAFE HOUSE -- a cat-and-mouse thriller that apes the hyperkinetic feel of Tony Scott, shot in a gritty style of THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007). With two idealistic pairing of Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, it's easy to expect that SAFE HOUSE would be an edge-of-the-seat crowd pleaser.

And as a matter of fact, it was -- at least for its pulse-pounding first 30 minutes. The movie opens with an ambitious and young CIA officer named Matt Weston (Reynolds), who is sick and tired for being stationed in a South African CIA safe house. He wants to get more proactive as he is eagerly awaited for his next field assignment. Then he gets his unexpected chance when an infamous rogue agent named Tobin Frost (Washington) is brought to the safe house for questioning. Tobin is wanted for espionage on four continents who has earlier turned himself in to an American consulate in order to avoid being killed by a group of mercenaries. Apparently those mercenaries wants him badly because Tobin holds a very sensitive information. But it doesn't take long before the mercenaries manage to track down the safe house and attack everyone. Matt and Tobin narrowly escape, and goes on the run together while locating the next safe house for protection.

So far so good, especially with the first two major action sequences involving the opening foot chase and a particularly breathtaking car chase along the street of Cape Town which ends up with Matt driving and fighting with Tobin simultaneously. For a while there, the movie is breathtaking enough to keep your adrenalin pumping, thanks to Oliver Wood's constantly urgent camerawork and Richard Pearson's whiplash editing. Normally, action sequences shot in shaky-cam are annoying but here, they does them exceptionally well.

Too bad what follows next is a pure letdown. The movie gradually loses steam and hardly recovers, with haphazard pacing and overlong exposition. Blame it on the first-time screenwriter David Guggenheim who doesn't offer nothing new or surprising to his generic screenplay. Everything here plays by-the-numbers. Even the action are getting lackluster at each passing moments, right until the lazy and surprisingly anticlimactic finale.

Denzel Washington brings his usual sneaky charm here, but the bad-guy role he's playing here is more of an autopilot mode than an engaging performance he could have excel instead. Fortunately Ryan Reynolds fares better in a dramatic performance as the frustrated CIA agent who is desperately to make things right. Too bad the supporting cast including Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard are all wasted in thankless performances.

SAFE HOUSE has potential to become one of the most entertaining thrillers of the year. But it's a shame the movie slogs too much to make this entirely worthwhile.

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