Monday, March 12, 2012

Movie Review: "Safe House"

True confession time. I'm a big Denzel Washington fan, yet I tend to skip a lot of his movies, because I feel his recent performances can be grouped into a few categories: the troubled law enforcement officer/detective/security guard battling his demons while everything around him goes to hell; the earnest, seen-it-all law enforcement officer/detective/security guard saves the day; and the badass bad guy whose a lot more complex than you think he is. I know that's an utter over-generalization, and I may have missed some terrific movies, but I feel that, with a few exceptions (American Gangster, Inside Man), Washington's performances since winning his Best Actor Oscar in 2001 for Training Day have hewed to these classifications.

When I first starting seeing trailers for Safe House, I thought, "Here we go again. Can Denzel please play a different character?" But once the movie premiered, and I heard from several friends that it was an enjoyable action flick, I was intrigued. And then I discovered that the movie's screenwriter was one of my campers when I was a counselor at summer camp, so I knew I had to see the movie.

Safe House is a taut, action-packed thriller that may not keep you guessing, but it still throws some surprises your way, while keeping you pretty well hooked for nearly two hours. Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is the CIA's most-wanted rogue agents. When an information exchange goes awry in Cape Town, South Africa, he finds himself arrested and taken to a safe house manned by the bored, waiting-for-his-break Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). But shortly after the interrogation of Frost begins, the safe house is raided and Weston finds himself on the run with Frost, torn between wanting to do what he believes is the right thing and being led somewhat astray by what Frost is telling him he should do. And as the movie unfolds, Weston becomes more and more confused about whom he should trust—his CIA handlers, his own instincts, or Frost himself.

While this movie doesn't really tread any new territory, Washington and Reynolds play well off each other, and there is enough crackling action to keep you excited and wondering where the plot will go next. I wondered what was ultimately going to happen and enjoyed the way the story was tied up in certain aspects and left fairly ambiguous in others. And even if he plays similar characters in many of his movies, I think Washington is at his best when his performances convey both bravado and some vulnerability, and I felt that the character of Tobin Frost allowed him that opportunity.

If you enjoy action movies, go see Safe House, or add it to your Netflix or Blockbuster queue. It's not earth-shattering, but it's really entertaining.

My grade: B-

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