Safe House 2012 Review: Ryan Reynolds’ film is surely not perfect

A dangerous CIA renegade resurfaces after a decade on the run. When the safe house he’s remanded to is attacked by mercenaries, a rookie operative escapes with him. Now, the unlikely allies must stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead.

Denzel Washington has certainly played the experienced, seasoned mentor role before. But his relationship with Reynolds’ eager newbie works for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Frost’s mentoring of Weston is more akin to torture than tutoring. But also, Frost is given a vague but satisfying back story that helps explain how he got here from there. While Weston demonstrates a kind of too dumb to know when to give up resilience that Frost can’t help but respect — even after Frost kicks his ass but stops short of shooting him, telling the kid that “I only kill professionals.”

Safe House (Chon An Toan) is surely not perfect. As exciting as the car chases and shantytown rooftop hijinks are. The aforementioned Bourne quick-cuts, shaky-cam comparisons are inevitable. And the cutaways to CIA headquarters, where Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepard are doddering around on their cell phones, tend to drag at times. Additionally, it’s not tough to pin this whole caper on the real bad guy of the piece. So mind-blowing revelations aren’t necessarily of interest to director Daniel Espinosa or scripter David Guggenheim.

Ryan Reynolds, who too often coasts on the comfort of his celebrity. Playing some variation of “the Ryan Reynolds guy” benefits greatly from his proximity to Washington. He can’t just resort here to the smirk or the wink that has served him so well since his Van Wilder days; it’s too bad, in fact, that we can’t put all of Hollywood’s young actors in a room for a day with Washington and a camera. For Safe House reminds of the magic that Denzel can do.

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