There’s always something about an “oddball” pairing, buddy-cop, movie which just doesn’t appeal it’s an outdated concept from the 80’s and the action genre has moved on from then (apart from with parodies like The Other Guys). Still, it’s nice to see that Safe House is giving it a go; because it sure has hell doesn’t have much of a personality otherwise.
Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern) is Matt Weston, an “innkeeper” for one of the CIA’s safe houses in Cape Town, South Africa. He’s up to a year there without any incidents whatsoever, until the day Denzel Washington’s (American Gangster) Tobin Frost gets dragged in for interrogation for crimes against his country. However, Frost has some information that both seedy mercenaries, and Weston’s boss, wants, and after barely escaping his safe house with Frost, Weston begins a madcap runabout Cape Town in search of sanctuary and completing his duty.
There’s a load of forgettable CIA and merc characters who just aren’t memorable or good enough to give a monkeys about. So it’s down to Washington as his rogue agent, and Reynolds as the rookie, to prop up the entire cast, and they just about get away with it. There’s not really any flair or interesting characteristics displayed from either, and both are let down by a poor script, but there’s something about them; they are strangely watchable; despite the fact you can tell they’re just shuffling through a sea of mediocrity.
Safe House‘s main selling point is in getting to see the “odd couple” of Washington’s veteran rogue and Reynolds rookie agent paired together; not exactly something new to the big screen. It’s set in South Africa, which is original (kind of), but it’s only Cape Town; it’s not like an action film set on safari, and with the limited amount of time the two spend on screen together they’re not even an odd couple at all. The ending involves Frost passing on the torch to Weston (saying “oh you’re a better agent than I was”), yet they’ve hardly spent a day together, and only had minimal chatting time since Frost was Weston’s prisoner. Weston kills two guys in front of Frost and he’s already a better agent? It’s stupid. It’s like in Alien 3 when Ripley says something truly dumb like she has been fighting aliens all her life despite only hanging out with them a grand total of 4 days tops.
The main problem with Safe House is that there’s nothing to set it apart from all the other action films which have been released over the last couple years; it’s very Bourne Trilogy-esque in terms of style and storyline, and even has the crap blurry fights and car chases from Bourne. It’s just too similar, when it suggested it could have had a “fight our way out of somewhere” gimmick like Panic Room or this year’s The Raid, and could have been a bit different at least.
Action isn’t really there, or isn’t notable enough to make you to care. Scenes trundle by without much excitement; like a car chase through Cape Town and a fight between two innkeepers – actually that’s a plot hole; for the life of me I cannot remember why the innkeeper of the second safe house kicks off at Reynolds? He was moaning about being stuck in South Africa for 10 months too. Perhaps he thought handing in Washington would give him a promotion but then how would he explain his dead colleague in the room? Ack, it’s not even worth bothering to think it out. The plainness of Safe House will actually hurt your brain, like one of those dull headaches you just can’t shift.
There’s nothing here to suggest calling it good, but you can do a helluva lot worse than watching Safe House; since it’s not outright bad; whilst it does rip off Bourne, Safe House doesn’t do a bad job of copying it, and is the equivalent of the vanilla in your Neapolitan ice cream – it’s there if you need it, when there’s no more chocolate or strawberry.
Decent conversion (as standard with DVD’s), but slightly odd with the ratio being 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen as compared to usual 16:9.
Good audio even with normal Dolby surround sound being the only option. Despite the language options, the inclusion of DVS English for those with hearing difficulties is a welcome addition.
Not much to shout about. The highlight is the eight minute documentary of the action sequences, and even that doesn’t reveal much. Standard multiple subtitles and only additional audio descriptive English makes it a poor bunch of extras.
The Bottom Line:
Safe House is serviceable. It doesn’t set out to innovate the action genre at all, which is fine, but there’s far too much Jason Bourne influence stamped over this to make it anything but a clone. Too much of a meh product all round to truly say it’s worth seeing.