Crazy To Miss: SAFE HOUSE
Summary: Tobin Frost is the CIA’s most dangerous traitor, who stuns the intelligence community when he surfaces in South Africa. When the safe house to which he’s remanded is attacked by brutal mercenaries, a rookie is forced to help him escape. As the masterful manipulator toys with his reluctant protege, the young operative finds his morality tested and idealism shaken. Now they must stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead. (Universal Pictures)
CRITICS CONSENSUS: CRAZY TO MISS
The pacing is uneven, the frenetic action is rarely suspenseful, the dialogue is neither witty nor intelligent, and the anticlimactic endgame drags out to an improbable conclusion.
Compared with a superior potboiler like “Salt,” which messed with your brain in entertainingly far-fetched ways, Safe House is action-movie porridge gussied up into a less-clever-than-it-seems mystery.
Safe House is an idea for a movie. It’s a few blustery gestures in the direction of a story, with five good actors doing their best, trying to hold up the barest frame of an idea, while investing the surrounding emptiness with all the truth they can muster.
Though Safe House may be too violent and nihilistic for everyone’s taste, it does have several crackerjack action sequences.
Director Espinosa stages the endless action with a tremendous flair that recalls John Woo’s grittier moments, and cinematographer Oliver Wood, who shot Woo’s finest Hollywood moment, “Face/Off,” gives the whole violent show a downright brackish look that borders on the sublime.
Safe House rockets along, taking a familiar formula and making it work – hard.
I’m not getting the most of his (Washington) charisma or enough of that million-dollar dental work. I’m not getting the joy, and I miss that.
Safe House has two powerful performances at its core, a hectic plot, a huge body count and a mild sense of déjà vu amid the pulse-quickening tension.
Crash. Kick. Stab. Punch. Talk (briefly). Smash. Chase. Screech. Shoot. Mumble. That’s the wearying pattern of Safe House. Had “think” been an action verb, the movie might have risen above the knee-jerk excitement of the second-tier, “Bourne”-style spy thriller. But it never does.
Terse and understated, this is a spy vs. spy tale designed to minimize talk and maximize action, not at all a bad thing in movies but over-worked to near-exhaustion here.
Director Espinosa shoots virtually everything in tight but wobbly close-up, and the human and vehicular combat often brakes right at the edge of visual incoherence. Just as often the brakes give out completely.
A movie with a double-crossing intelligence plot that’s so generic it’s an irritating intrusion in a lively chase through the streets and shantytowns of Cape Town, South Africa.
Safe House does altogether too good a job establishing Washington as a seemingly unbeatable adversary: He brings so much gravity to his role that Reynolds seems hopelessly overmatched.
Essentially and very effectively a rollicking smash-and-crash chase movie that happens to be surprisingly well acted.
It’s a decent February movie that smartly extends Washington’s God-on-the-run character.
Safe House devolves into unexciting action scenes that feel left over from the “Bourne” flicks and are peopled with cloak-and-dagger stereotypes.
There are several things to enjoy here. The use of motel service-industry code words by the safe-house staff is dryly funny.
In contrast with the fragmented kineticism of Paul Greengrass’ “Bourne” movies, there’s no existential dimension to the shattered-glass aesthetic here; it’s just raw, chaotic action, inelegantly shot and staged but no less unnerving for it.
Good actors like Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson show up to bust balls and bark expository dialogue with check-in-the-bank-yet? proficiency. Add in a couple of dully pro forma narrative twists to keep you awake in between shots of distractingly exotic South African scenery, and you’ve got a first-quarter Hollywood release par excellence. Meaning not.
Safe House is a twisted claw of a movie, a picture so visually ugly that, to borrow a line from Moms Mabley, it hurt my feelings.
Too often Washington is made to simply sit and observe — which is not a fatal mistake because he is such a good actor that even then he’s worth watching. Worse, though, at times he’s gone altogether. That’s not the only flaw in the fairly straightforward thriller, but it’s the biggest.
Safe House is a sturdy enough thriller, but one that consistently defaults to the less interesting of its two lead characters.
It’d be unwise to dismiss Safe House as merely a clone of Tony Scott’s manically inclined vision.
Reviewed by: Kate Erbland
Safe House isn’t the most original of plots – it feels like a loose amalgamation of ten other spy flicks – but director Espinosa infuses his production with some bold choices, both in terms of technics and twists.
Swedish director Daniel Espinosa isn’t as adept at chase scenes as “Bourne” director Paul Greengrass: We sometimes lose track of who’s supposed to be where and which direction the bullets are flying.
Espinosa never conveys any sort of perspective on the material, as Scott does through his obsessive attention to production detail; the stylization feels empty, distracting from whatever simple pleasures the routine plot (involving double agents and stolen microchips) might have delivered.
Reviewed by: Karina Longworth
[A] scattered but not totally disagreeable CIA conspiracy thriller.
Source : MetaCritic
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