The movie is Safe House. It is anything but safe.
Denzel Washington is Tobin Frost, a rogue agent the CIA has been hunting for years. He has a mysterious chip that a very violent group wants. They corner him and faced with certain death, Frost — who is in South Africa — turns himself in at the American Consulate.
Ryan Reynolds is Matt Weston. He’s a CIA rookie running the safe house. Nothing ever happens there. He spends every day alone with nothing to do. His safe his is where they take the captured Frost. The men chasing Frost seem to know he’s there. They raid the safe house, kill Frost’s elite guard forcing Weston and Frost go on the run.
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First the actors. Washington is one of the most watchable actors of all time. The camera — even, like in this movie, when it never holds still — loves the guy. Bad guy or good guy, Washington oozes charisma and you can’t help but like him. Here he’s a redeemable bad guy.
Reynolds career consists of softball roles like The Proposal or Definitely, Maybe. His attempt at being an action hero in Green Lantern also bombed. Since most of you didn’t see his excellent work in Buried, “Safe House” gives you a chance to see Reynolds stretch a bit and do some serious, and excellent acting.
Too bad the material isn’t up to his or Washington’s performance, and that it wastes the exceptional talents of Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Brendan Gleeson and Ruben Blades.
The fallout starts with how the movie is shot. The new way of doing spy thrillers is quick shots with handheld cameras. Then you edit, edit, edit. A car chase is several hundred mind-blurring clips melded into a scene. Amped up sound effects and music are added to enhance the intensity. You get shots from inside the car. Outside the car. It’s coming at you, it’s going away from you. Bullets hit everything but the main characters.
When the vertigo inducing action stops and you’re in scenes where the characters finally interact, the handheld is still there, wavering and wobbling, never quite stopping.
All of this distracts from what passes as a plot. You think you’re having a good time and that you’re seeing a really good thriller. Take away the one-after-another chase scenes where bullets hit everything and everyone but the two main characters, and you have a 10-minute movie.
Once you get a hint or two about the chip Frost is carrying, and the fact that he and Weston are so easily tracked, the 10-minute movie becomes a not very good 10-minute movie.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated R for violence, language, mature themes. It opens Friday, Feb. 10 at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.