I Watch a Shit Film So You Don’t Have To: Safe House (2012)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Brendan Gleeson

I had high hopes for this film, through a combination of my unhealthy obsession with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington’s ability to consistently deliver a solid performance (so long as it calls for glass-eyed wisdom and/or incoherently mumbling half his lines.) At the very least, the trailer made it look like a competent, even semi-intelligent, cat-and-mouse thriller. I’m just trying to make clear that it’s with a heavy heart that I call this film a load of old arse.

Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a rookie CIA operative who has been placed in charge of a safe house (a secure location where terrorists and miscellaneous criminals can be questioned without Michael Moore crying about it) after being passed over for several promotions abroad. The daily grind is turned upside down when his safe house is made home to Tobin Frost (Washington,) an ex-operative turned international criminal who has been selling secrets to the highest bidder for decades since going rogue.

He evaded capture for years by growing out his hair and beard and telling everyone he was Morgan Freeman.

Tits inevitably go up when the safe house — a building distinguishable from others only by the fact it’s supposed to be impenetrable — is turned over by insurgents of a foreign persuasion, (it’s never actually made clear who they are) forcing Weston to bundle Frost into the boot of a hatchback like a rapist . After breaking free and almost killing them both, Frost puts on his Wise Elder cap and begins to school Weston in the art of ‘it doesn’t matter if it’s illegal as long as you know you’re right,’ a philosophy you’d think would help Reynolds’ character when he shoots an innocent man twenty minutes later.

If you have a half-decent head on your shoulders you should be able to figure out where the plot is going from here: Tobin Frost is on the wrong side of the law but the right side of justice; if only he can prove it. Even if you’re a complete idiot, though, the whole thing should feel familiar if you’ve already seen the Bourne trilogy because this is basically Jason Bourne Abridged, and it still manages to be excruciatingly slow. Also, without giving away the end, there are at least two points where Frost could end the entire film but inexplicably chooses not to.

The film takes forever to reach every twist the audience will figure out in the opening minutes and there’s really nothing to recommend here that hasn’t been done better by the same actors in different films. The fight scenes are incredibly brutal, I suppose, but they’re hard to enjoy because the camera-man is so damn excited to be there that he can’t stop shaking around like they filmed all their scenes on the San Andreas Fault.

You have a god damn rig, why the FUCK can't you hold the thing still.

Watch Instead: The Bourne Trilogy, The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Man on Fire or Shooter.

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