Film: “Safe House” solid action or tired cliche?


February 17th, 2012

Omaha, NE – In the mood for some action with a side of recycled characters? From the Movieha podcast, Ryan Syrek and Matt Lockwood have this review of Safe House.

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Safe House stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, and is set in South Africa.

Ryan: Hey, remember when Denzel Washington was the type of actor who challenged himself and won awards and whatnot?

Matt: No. But I do remember when Ryan Reynolds made the life-altering emotional epic that was The Green Lantern.

Ryan: What you’re telling me is that a movie that pairs these two together is definitely going to be a dense and thoughtful exploration of humanity written by a MENSA member.

Matt: Nope, it’s a hackneyed “watch things blow up” predictable thriller that probably never had a full script, just stage directions like “look mad when you get shot.”

Ryan: Reynolds plays a noob CIA agent who is stuck at the spy equivalent of latrine duty, as he’s wasting away in South Africa guarding a fake office designed to house any spy that needs it.

Matt: Everything is quiet…too quiet…until Tobin Frost, played by Washington, shows up. Frost used to be a good guy but is now a bad guy. Actually he’s kind of a good bad guy, not an all bad bad guy, but he still shoots people in the face.

Ryan: The duo find themselves on the run together, fighting one another, and trying to figure out who the dirty rat is inside the CIA.

Matt: Although this wasn’t directed by Tony Scott, Washington’s frequent collaborator, it sure looks like it was, with it’s grainy visuals and shaky-cam cinematography. The action isn’t quite edited by a blender like in the Bourne movies, but it’s definitely a distant cousin of that series.

Ryan: Washington has reduced his presence on screen to a series of smiles and repeated gestures, almost a caricature of himself at this point, while Reynolds is bland without being able to use his well-known sarcastic wit. There’s a macguffin in the form of a secret file, which is almost as cliched and tired as the rooftop chase and unsurprising double cross.

Matt: Yeah, but did you really expect something more? It’s like when you’re hungry, sometimes you’re in the mood for a big meal and sometimes you’re just in the mood for a snack. This is definitely no fine cut of prime rib, it’s more like a slim jim, but it’s tasty just the same.

Ryan: To a degree, I can see what you’re saying. It does deliver solid action, it’s quickly paced and never boring, and it’s competently made. But I guess I just need something a little more filling. I don’t want to snap into this slim jim, I’d prefer to find another tasty treat.

Matt: Are we still talking about movies, because I’m getting hungry.

Ryan: Sorry buddy. Sounds like we’re somewhat split on this one, so it all comes down to what you’re in the mood for.

Editorial note: The Movieha podcast is produced in partnership with The Reader and is available at

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