Safe House (2012)
Dir: Daniel Espinosa
This ticks a lot of the boxes of a ‘buddy cop’ movie… just without them being cops… or buddies!
Ryan Reynolds stars as Matt Weston, a CIA agent who is the ‘housekeeper’ of a safe house in Cape Town, which is a boring and quiet job that he would rather be re-assigned out of. However one day Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) a wanted rogue agent, hands himself in at a U.S. embassy and is taken to Weston’s safe house for interrogation. Frost is then pursued by a team of men who are intent on capturing or killing him, for uncertain reasons, and Weston is forced to go on the run with his ‘house guest’ in tow.
The pairing of Reynolds and Washington seems at first to be a fantastic one, two actors who have varying experience but are both well regarded and big box-office draws. As characters, putting an older ex-CIA agent shackled as it were to a younger ‘rookie’ agent, has the strong feeling of something like a ‘buddy cop’ film such as ‘Lethal Weapon’. You know that the experience or history of one, will conflict at first with the other who has different methods and is likely trying to prove himself, but they will inevitably work together in the end. At the risk of spoiling this, there’s a whole lot of that going on.
Sadly, though it seems like that would be a recipe for genius, it just doesn’t work out that way. I love good action, and nice car chases, but more so when worked around the framework of great story. This just felt a little too predictable and re-hashed. It’s a downside of being so well versed in film, that I can often see things coming from early on, and in this case there wasn’t much that surprised me and I started nodding off despite the fast-paced action scenes and loud crashes and bangs that went along with the frequent car chases, shoot-outs, and physical confrontations.
The key to lifting any action film above the normal levels is in the characters and story, but these just lacked. Washington’s character should have been fantastic, but yet is shown with no real drive or motivation, although there are some factors alluded to such as mentioning he was married just once (unlike most agents), and is trying to get information into the open, neither of these ideas is developed enough to form a clear sense of why he’s been rogue for a decade. Reynolds is well suited to play a young agent with under-used skills, but his character is left too bland and formulaic, so is given the inclusion of a girlfriend to help round him out and create empathy, but that’s left undeveloped too and so feels like unnecessary padding.
There’s all the ingredients for a good action film here, but sadly the recipe just didn’t come together in quite the right way.