Safe House (2012) a (mildly) belated review

What’s worse:  (a) A low budget film featuring a cast of unknowns in what turns out to be a mediocre to poorly conceived action/adventure story or…

(b) A very big budget film featuring well established actors in what also turns out to be a mediocre to poorly conceived action/adventure story?

For me, (b) will always be worse.  In the case of (a) I tend to go easier on the people before or behind the cameras for I suspect they had to deal with more difficulties regarding creative choices…if only because of budgetary limitations.

But with films like Safe House, one comes away wondering what it was that drew all this talent and big money to make what turned out to be a very predictable and ultimately disappointingly mediocre film.  How predictable was Safe House?  Let me put it this way:  If you can’t figure out who the “real” bad guy is the very moment he first appears on the screen, you’re clearly a movie newbie.

The film’s plot goes like this:  Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a young CIA agent stationed in South Africa whose job it is to sit bored for hour after hour at a secret CIA “safe house” and await any sort of “company” company.  He’s little more than a high tech housekeeper as he’s been at this obviously very boring job for a few months now and nothing has happened there.  In the brief glimpses we have of him, we’re to understand he’s itching to move up the CIA ranks.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), a renegade ex-CIA agent wanted for treason who appears in South Africa, contacts an ex-MI6 agent, and is given some kind of microchip with some kind of “explosive” information on it.  Before he can leave clean with his prize, he is assaulted by a mysterious group of killers and is forced to retreat into an American Embassy and admit who he is.  From there, he is cuffed and taken to, you guessed it, Weston’s safe house and soon all hell breaks loose and the young agent has to move the seasoned (and dangerous) ex-agent/traitor away from the killers.

The movie strives to be perhaps a more “serious” attempt at something along the lines of the Bourne films, but the action sequences never really resonate and, after the first fifteen or so minutes, the film falls into a groove and never really rises or falls below that level.  We move from one scene to the next and are never as invested in the characters or the situation as we should be.  Ultimately, the film climaxes in another safe house and the “real” bad guys -you know, the one’s you should have figured out a very long time ago- are revealed and…well… it doesn’t really amount to all that much.

While Safe House is certainly not a terrible film, it never engages or surprises.  It never rises above being another mediocre action film, in spite of the big budget and A-list cast.  What a disappointment.