Monday, February 13, 2012

Safe House (2012)

Denzel Washington is one of the few actors left that has been able to put on incredible performances for almost every new generation of cinemagoers since the beginning of his career. Lately though, he has been starring in movies where his credibility as an actor is in fact too good for the movie itself. He hasn't worked with strong material since emulating infamous drug kingpin Frank Lucas in "American Gangster," and has since then starred in roles that have sadly misused his true talent as one of the finest actors in movie history. This time around, he stars in "Safe House," which is sadly yet another film that is too good for Denzel Washington's acting.

Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is a CIA agent that has gone rogue, because of trading intel with other agencies. While on a mission in Cape Town, South Africa, he's targeted by a pair of mercenaries who are after a chip in his possession. To elude being captured, he surrenders at a U.S. embassy and is soon transferred to a safe house watched over by Matthew Weston (Ryan Reynolds). However, the safe house is ambushed by the mercenaries after Frost, and the duo are on the run to stay alive. Now how many times have we heard of a plot like that before, huh?
No matter what kind of material or genre he has to work with, Denzel Washington seems to always be aware of the limits he has in each role he plays. That is no different in his role for this film, as he strongly delivers on playing the badass that can't be stopped by anyone. Even for playing a one-dimensional caricature, Washington's tenacious presence and boisterous charisma alongside the cast he works with are more than enough to please the common fan. I'm not one of those people that hates on Ryan Reynolds' acting, because I actually think he's a solid actor when given the right material. Like Washington, he's working with a one-dimensional caricature, but he manages to pull off a performance that stands alongside Washington's at a decent enough degree. However, the supporting cast comprised Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepard are heavily underused, especially Farmiga who seems to have taken on several of these kinds of roles since her Oscar-nominated role in "Up in the Air."

Director Daniel Espinosa never settles on an original style of any form throughout the film. The only thought I had running through my mind is that it felt like Tony Scott directed this film, because his style is ever so similar to the way Espinosa shoots the film. The shaky handheld camera angles and choppily edited action sequences got on my nerves quick, but I really hated how Espinosa started nearly every action sequence by making you jump from a gunshot coming from out of nowhere. If a director uses the same technique to start every action sequence in his film, then you know you've got a problem with your film. Despite that gripe though, some of the action was entertaining, but the action in the second half feels extremely weak compared to the first.
Screenwriter David Guggenheim's script is riddled with typical, cliche conventions that pertain to the CIA thriller genre, and they quickly begin to grow tiresome once the movie starts. Additionally, it seems that Guggenheim didn't know what to do once the two lead characters broke out of the safe house, because every event that follows afterwards is lazily written, and peppered with very weak dialogue. Furthermore, the script tries to be smart in pulling a late twist in the final thirty minutes, but I managed to predict it about thirty minutes in, and every set piece that follows that "twist" is one generic cliche after another that pissed me off the longer it went on for.

It took only one week to realize that we're still in the month of February for generic movies, and "Safe House" relishes in that category. Denzel Washington needs to find a new agent, because I'm starting to get a little sick of him starring in films where his acting is way too good for the movie itself. The only times where that has worked was when he worked with Tony Scott on "The Taking of Pelham 123" and "Unstoppable." Otherwise, "Safe House" is a cliche-filled, unoriginal CIA thriller that delivers solid enough performances that prevent this film from being the disaster it should have been.

Final Grade: C

Review of "Safe House" on Youtube

No comments:

Post a Comment