The Score: "[Denzel] Washington Has A Knack For Dark-Side Portrayals"

Friday, Feb 10, 2012 12:18PM

Written by J. Bachelor

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  • Safe House
  • Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
  • February 10, 2012
The Detroit News 8/10
The Washington Post 2/4
New York Post 2/4
Dallas News 8/10
Globe And Mail 2/4

Denzel back. Denzel back. That's all these critics screaming 'bout as the two time Oscar-winning actor matches wits with an under qualified Ryan Reynolds in the action/thriller Safe House.

Like Training Day, Safe House finds Washington in familiar territory: Manipulating the white man for the audience's pleasure.

The new thriller Safe House is busy, bloody and above all Bourne-y -- as in Jason Bourne, the hero of the hugely successful trilogy of action movies that starred Matt Damon as an amnesiac CIA agent who has gone off the grid. The rogue agent here is Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), and while his memory is intact, he, too, strikes fear in the heart of his one-time superiors. Enter earnest young agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds), desperate to prove himself and charged to keep Frost locked down at a CIA safe house in Cape Town, South Africa, until this troublemaker can be properly debriefed.(Star-Telegram)

Critics say while Safe House is high on action, it leaves much to be desired in the way of logic.

Early on, David Guggenheim's screenplay proves willing to sacrifice sense for cheap action: With Frost out of sight in a car trunk (and his own face unseen by the assassins), Weston could calmly drive out of harm's way. Instead, he speeds off, making himself the target in a car chase we've seen countless times before. Things get dumber before long, as Weston's faraway bosses expect him to take his wily, handcuffed captive into a packed soccer stadium without drawing attention to himself or losing Frost.(Washington Post)

The cat-and-mouse setup, which provides plenty of thrilling moments, is intertwined with instances of comical banter between Reynolds and Washington.

During occasional breathers from the racing, punching and shooting, Tobin schools Matt in the cynicism of their trade, and reveals that he is carrying a file of information that a lot of people would kill for. The relationship between the jaded pro and the idealistic younger man has obvious resonances of Training Day (2001), with Washington a bit too familiar as the ingratiating, sinister arch- manipulator. By contrast, Reynolds's understated performance as a man deeply over his head is refreshing, if not entirely credible. Surely, no one who has watched any espionage movie of the past decade could be quite so naive.(The Globe and The Mail)

Acting wise, Washington gives viewers a performance worthy of the ticket price as his character, Tobin Frost, is convincing as the classic charismatic "bad guy."

Though he is one of those actors who rarely sets a foot wrong no matter what the role, Washington has developed a special knack for dark-side portrayals that bring intensity and flair to films like "Training Day," "American Gangster" and this one. Here the actor plays the especially chilly Tobin Frost, a renegade CIA operative who has spent the last nine years in activities so traitorous the man is "wanted for espionage on four continents." (Antarctica is presumably not on the list.)(LA Times)

While critics agree Safe House is not a groundbreaking action/thriller, they cite Denzel's ability to turn even the most predictable of plots into a worthwhile moviegoing experience.

"Forgettable" probably isn't a word you'd expect to use to describe a film starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard. But unfortunately, that's one of the most apt when pondering "Safe House." Directed by Daniel Espinosa from a script by David Guggenheim (not to be confused with "An Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim), this is a frenetically paced jumble of shaky-cam tricks and quick edits, dizzying car chases and deafening shootouts. You'd be forgiven for mistaking it for yet another action thriller from Tony Scott, given that it bears his aesthetic markings as well as the presence of Washington, his usual star.(North Jersey News)
"Safe House" is a safe bet if you're in the market for a conspiracy-driven action drama. There are times you wish it wasn't quite so safe, but it does deliver the bang for your bucks.(Detroit News)

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