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Looking For A Good Movie? "House" Is A "Safe" Bet

A Review of "Safe House," starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds

Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 19:04

Safe House

A Theatrical Poster for "Safe House"

Denzel Washington is easily one of the coolest actors of our generation. We’ve grown to know and love Denzel as the calm hero, swiftly taking out the baddies in recent thrillers like “The Taking of Pelham 123,” “Unstoppable”and “Inside Man.”  But let’s not forget that Washington has also excelled in antagonistic roles, as evidenced by his villainous performances in “Training Day”and “American Gangster.” Most action film bad guysare almost always stereotyped as crazy, quick-tempered madmen who’ll start yelling at the slightest provocation (Denzel’s nemesis in “Pelham,” John Travolta, was a good example of that.) Rather, Washington maintains a calm persona, his relaxed half-smile almost never leaving his face as he approaches the next obstacles.A film like “Safe House” sure provides plenty of those obstacles with its twists turns and chases. Cast as a CIA agent turned international criminal Tobin Frost, Denzel doesn’t lose his cool once, even while cuffed and held at gunpoint. When co-star Ryan Reynolds cuffs him to a pipe, Washington still manages to keep his composure, taunting Reynolds the entire time - slowly unraveling the young low-level agent with his logic and wisecracks.

While “Safe House”showcases all the reasons we’ve grown to love Washington over the years, it also shows why we should keep an eye on Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds is better known for comedic roles, but has gotten a bad rap for being in mediocre action films such as “Smokin’ Aces”and “Green Lantern.” “Safe House”finally gives Reynolds a good lead role as rookie agent Matt Weston who oversees the titular safe house. Reynolds starts off as a youngster eager to get out of the safe house and earn some real experience, but ends up having to fight for his life and Tobin’s when the safe house is attacked. Reynolds’s character keeps his cool despite never handling a gun before. Action stars like Tom Hardy, Chris Hemsworthe, and Sam Worthington were also considered for the role, but Reynolds makes it his own, staying on par with Washington in nearly every scene.

One thing that separates “Safe House”from the other action films out today is its setting in Cape Town, South Africa. Most Hollywood action thrillers take place in big American cities like New York or LA, but this is a refreshing change of scenery. Other than the indie hit “District 9”and Eastwood’s“Invictus,” I can’t remember seeing another film take place in South Africa. It makes Weston’s plight even more desperate, being in an unfamiliar environment. The camera also is kind enough to take the time to show some of the natural beauty the country has to offer - always a plus during the cold winter.

“Safe House”does have shortcomings in its abrupt ending and poor execution of key plot twists, but it is still an enjoyable film nonetheless. Near the end of the film, the expert Washington tells the rookie Reynolds, “You’re better than me.” While that may not be the case, Reynolds is still an actor to keep an eye on. While “Green Lantern”did not live up to the hype in the eyes of many fans, don’t give up on the kid just yet. When you can stay in the fight with Denzel Washington (figuratively and literally in this film’s case), you know you’re doing something right. Keep it up, Ryan.

Rating: 3 stars (out of four)

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