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Monday, February 27, 2012
How did it ever come to pass that a man as talented as Denzel Washington became synonymous with crud? All those years of gaudy, hyped-up action fripperies have degraded expectation so much that there can be a tendency to overvalue any little shaft of intelligence or innovation his films display.
Maybe it’s a case of Stockholm syndrome, but I was pleasantly enough diverted by Safe House.
Washington is the CIA agent gone rogue, a master spy with Hannibal Lecter-like abilities at mental manipulation.
Ryan Reynolds, the hunk with the little-boy face, is the CIA man stuck in a dead end assignment guarding a safe house.
Their paths cross and the rest of the film is mostly high-speed hurly burly as they bash around Cape Town trying to stay ahead of the band of killers out to get them.
Meanwhile the rest of the name cast members are in the operations room at Langley, pinging around terse exchanges.
It’s an action film where you wish they’d give it a rest once in a while.
Whenever people talk to each other the film begins to engage you. Then a bullet will rip through a window and everybody starts rushing around for the next 10 minutes.
The action scenes are really quite dull, each of them the same frantically edited mishmash, no shot lasting more than three seconds, so randomly and chaotically assembled as to be meaningless.
After five films together this at least gets Washington away from the clammy shoulder lock of Tony Scott’s matey embrace.
Daniel Espinosa, a Swede making his Hollywood debut, makes sure that Washington feels comfortable, filming it in the Scott style, though with a touch more restraint.
Washington and Reynolds are smooth star performers who lead you painlessly through the mayhem. Just occasionally Washington allows us a brief glimpse of what he’s really capable of, that mighty acting talent he wilfully squanders, and it’s almost cruelty.
SAFE HOUSE (15)
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleason, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shephard and Robert Patrick
Length: 118 mins