By Mike Smith
Life as a spy isn’t as glamorous as it seems. In spite of all the dreams of shooting people and trading secrets and bedding beautiful women, somebody has to start at the bottom. Today our somebody is Matt Weston (Reynolds). Hoping for a transfer as a field officer in some exotic city (Paris is currently his preference), Matt’s current position finds him the baby sitter of a safe house. For those of you who aren’t spies, a safe house is a place where, if you were on the run from a bad guy, you could go and be, well….safe. As you can imagine, Matt’s job is pretty boring. At least until he meets Tobin Frost (Washington), the baddest of the bad!
Filmed in a herky jerky motion that may cause seizures (the over exposed lighting doesn’t help) “Safe House” is an over the top thriller that apparently doesn’t know it’s over the top. As directed by Daniel Espinosa, the film is a non-stop (often to the point of absurdity) punch ‘em up/drag ‘em out action film that wants to be a psychological thriller. In a nutshell, Denzel has something every other agent from every other country wants, especially ours. Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson play the C.I.A. big wigs who try to push the right buttons in Reynolds, keeping him oblivious to the big picture. The two do credible work, carefully avoiding chewing too much scenery. To do that would scream out “cartoonish bad guy!” Washington and Reynolds are very strong and sincere in their roles, which is a credit to their talents. They both go above and beyond in this one.
The film isn’t helped by the fact it was photographed by Shaky the Cameraman and lit by someone with a Sun gun. There was a great invention in the mid 1970s called the Steadicam. Sadly, the filmmakers apparently never heard of it. And what’s even more annoying? EVERYTHING is shaky. Sometimes the whole frame shakes. Other times, the frame is steady but EVERYTHING INSIDE THE FRAME shakes! The action scenes are drawn out so long that it’s like watching a live action re-enactment of Peter Griffin battling the Giant Chicken on “Family Guy”!