TAG | Safe House
Around this time of year I read a lot of Top 10 Lists and compile a couple of my own, but rarely do you ever see a list featuring movies that people didn’t quite love and therefore get left off any end of year lists- that is unless they ended up on a bottom of list somehow. So briefly, I just wanted to take a few moments and highlight five films from 2012 that I really enjoyed, but they just couldn’t quite win me over by the end. Also, even though these are films I consider “so-so” by no means am I saying you should skip them as I believe they all deserve a fair shake. Some you may love more than me and you may indeed hate- either way let me know what you think!
(5) Red Lights - I was extremely excited to see Rodrigo Cortes’ follow-up to BURIED (a film that made my Top 10 the year it came out), which is why I was pretty disappointed once I finally saw it. The one thing that did kind of carryover was the sense of dread and tension throughout, but the emotional connection was completely missing and the logistics of the twist just did not hit home for me. The performances are good, not great and a lot of the film can seem pretty goofy. In spite of the flaws though, I still think this is a film worth at least a rental.
(4) Safe House - I’m not sure what to expect about this choice, but I kind of really enjoyed a lot of this film. Denzel Washington is rarely ever not fun in the movies he’s in and he soars with Ryan Reynolds is a pretty entertaining fashion here. In terms of an action movie with an incredibly dumb twist it leaves a little to be desired, but I would recommend watching for Washington alone and a few select action scenes that I enjoyed.
(3) Lawless - I have somewhat of a dude crush on Tom Hardy, although in a completely non creepy way- mostly because I thought he was phenomenal in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. It was a little tough to not look at him as Bane during LAWLESS and I felt that while he was good here, there’s just something that was missing for me. I also HATE the way this film ends, which is only its second crime against my personal tastes as the first is casting and using Shia LeBouf entirely too much. Guy Pearce is awesome and had the ending been tweaked and someone else cast in LeBouf’s role this could have had Top 10 potential for me.
(2) Headhunters - This is my fancy pants choice for the list as it’s the only foreign film to crack any list for this year. The funny thing being that as most foreign films go, this is probably the least elegant and hard hitting as most I’ve seen and loved. There are quite a few clever plot points weaved throughout, but also some pretty dumb and goofy things that drug it down for me. The performances are fun, the cat and mouse nature of the middle section is also a lot of fun- but ultimately there was just something about it I didn’t love.
(1) Chronicle - There are parts of this movie that I absolutely love- which is why I was a little disappointed with some really weak aspects of this film. It does a great job at justifying the found footage angle minus the incredibly stupid tacked on footage of a girl shooting footage for her online blog and the main character’s struggle is extremely effective especially going into the final act of the film. The special effects in a few spots are laughably bad, while others are pretty incredible which only made the bad effects detract from my enjoyment more. I may come to appreciate this more over time, but make no mistake, I don’t hate it by any means, since my point is to just point out films that fell just short of getting a bit more praise than I originally may have given them- you should definitely check this one out.
What are some of your disappointments from this year or some films that walked the line of being great, but fell just short?
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)
If you learn just one thing from a movie called SAFE HOUSE is that these CIA enforced buildings are anything but safe- at least as depicted here. If you learn two things, the other is either the fact that Denzel Washington can play just about any type of smooth talking bad ass character you give him in his sleep or that when it comes to these types of movies, the villain reveal is wholly unsatisfying. I will say though that despite how generic and clichéd certain aspects of SAFE HOUSE are there are more than just a handful of things the film does right and raises it from simply standard fair to a thoroughly enjoyable thriller.
Ryan Reynolds plays Matt Weston who is a young CIA agent tasked with watching over a safe house. Weston finds himself in over his head when a suspected traitor, Tobin Frost, turns himself in to escape another organization trying to kill him and subsequently storm the safe house that Weston is in charge of so he escapes with Frost in custody and must fight off the slew of bad guys that are after them while also keeping Frost from escaping.
I find that more often than not when it comes to these types of thrillers that offer nothing spectacular and nothing horrifyingly bad that I have very little to say about the film in general. In the broadest of stokes I could break SAFE HOUSE down as simple as this- yes I enjoyed the movie, but I don’t picture myself ever watching it again. The reasons for such a simple breakdown are almost as unceremonious as the sentence itself.
I like Denzel Washington as much as the next guy or gal and I enjoyed his performance in this film- though nowhere near as much as I did in a movie like TRAINING DAY. Washington is good, but is he performance of the year good, no- not even if it’s the supporting actor category. Same goes for Ryan Reynolds- he’s good yet he doesn’t have the background that Washington has- in fact it’s the opposite as I’m still trying to shake his performance in GREEN LANTERN out of my head. Everyone else here in the cast are nothing but clichéd action/thriller fodder, there for info dumps and generic boring reveals. Passed the two leads there’s nothing here worth getting too excited about.
The story and action on the other hand is often as generic and uninspired as the character work and operates at nothing more than auto-pilot mode- though I’d give it a little more praise by saying SAFE HOUSE’s auto-pilot mode is at least a step down from high quality and several steps above the low end knock off model. The majority of the action here takes place in shootouts and for the most part some of the opening scenes carry a decent amount of tension especially as Reynolds is waiting in an interrogation room with Washington talking in his ear trying to convince him to get him out of there while you hear muffled shooting and fighting outside the door. The camera work and the cutting of the action serves as the least flattering aspect of the film- there were many moments I either wasn’t exactly sure who was winning or what exactly was even going down. Then again it may have been that I just didn’t care that much.
I wish I could sit work up enough excitement to bring up more of the good or bad that SAFE HOUSE has to offer. The fact of the matter is that it was a movie I sat down, watched, enjoyed and ultimately didn’t have strong feeling for or against it. It’s a film that may just be destined for a low rent bargain bin, but probably deserves a more discerning audience, but just for the sheer been-there-done-that filmmaking and the fact that nothing here really stands out it is at least a bargain bin title that has more bang for your buck. As negative as I may sound toward SAFE HOUSE, I should clarify that it is a film I could buy and watch again, just not one that I’m chomping at the bit to do so.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)
Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds took their thriller Safe House to box office success last weekend. The duo’s flick earned over $39 million leading to a record-setting box office. The film follows Washington’s Tobin Frost, a rogue CIA agent who comes in from the cold after a decade selling U.S. secrets to our enemies. Reynolds’ Matt Weston runs a CIA Safe House in Johannesburg, South Africa that has not seen a single soul in almost 12 months. When Frost arrives at Weston’s “office,” the action thriller kicks into high gear.
The film is a jaw-dropping roller coaster ride and has also provided us with a stellar list of Safe House quotes.
Matt Weston: How am I supposed to get more experience by staring at four walls all day? | permalink
Tobin Frost: Remember rule number one: you are responsible for your house guest. I'm your house guest. | permalink
Matt Weston: I'm taking you in!
(Frost knocks him down)
Tobin Frost: I want you to take me in. | permalink
Tobin Frost: Never shoot an innocent person. | permalink
Tobin Frost: I think you need to consider how your safe house was attacked in the first place. That house was a secure location. Whoever crashed it, they were invited. Someone told them, someone you know… | permalink
Tobin Frost: I'm not your only enemy tonight. | permalink
Matt Weston: Protocol? There is no protocol for this? | permalink
Tobin Frost: Time's a-wasting. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock... | permalink
Tobin Frost: Do I make you nervous?
Matt Weston: You’re not gonna get in my head.
Tobin Frost: I’m already in your head. | permalink
Tobin Frost: You know who you are and I know what you're not. | permalink
Safe House returns Denzel Washington to his badass ways that earned him an Academy Award for Training Day. Washington is Tobin Frost, a rogue CIA agent who has been on the run for the last decade selling the most sensitive U.S. secrets to its enemies. Ryan Reynolds is Matt Weston, an agency member whose position involves him sitting in an empty Johannesburg, South Africa Safe House on the off chance that he will one day be needed. Their worlds collide in the thriller directed by Daniel Espinosa, who is making his Hollywood debut (don't miss our exclusive interview with Espinosa).
When Frost walks into the U.S. Embassy seeking refuge in the South African capital, it sets off alarms across the globe. That is also where the audience gets swept away to CIA headquarters as we meet Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard and Brendan Gleeson’s agents who are trying to make sense of it all. First things first, they must move Frost to a Safe House. Denzel, meet Ryan.
As seen in the Safe House trailer, Reynolds’ “office” gets ambushed and subsequently Espinosa crafts a car chase scene that astounds. You will hold your breath until it concludes and Reynolds and Washington escape danger... for now.
Washington is explosive as Frost. There are layers to his characterization that are such strokes of brilliance. Only the Oscar winner could have his audience pulling for him to succeed when his onscreen persona is guilty of such horrendous crimes. It is as if the audience is having a play date with a fellow who is the most mesmerizing of presences. What we adore so much about a performance such as Washington’s in Safe House is how he is never pandering to the camera. He plays bad as simply a faulty human being, who has some sort of redemption along the ride that only further enhances our adoration for what we are watching.
Reynolds has found his command in the thriller. He is concurrently hapless, harried and heroic. Even though his job is pedantic, the actor plays Weston as a man whose ability to transform into a fierce opponent for Frost is believable. That is because it is clearly established early in the film by Reynolds’ coy demeanor and backstory. In the action-thriller milieu, often the pursuer of the baddie -- when the evildoer is the star of the film -- is not sufficiently drawn to warrant the full audience embrace. It is not quite there in the script by David Guggenheim, but Reynolds does amazing work with what he is given.
Espinosa directs with a crispness that befits his story. His use of the landscape of South Africa is inspired. The deeply divided country, both politically and economically, lends itself as an almost third lead behind Washington and Reynolds.
The use of the rest of the cast is unfortunate. With Shepard, Gleeson and Farmiga all as the requisite agency puppets, they feel slightly underused. The scenes in the CIA headquarters ignite a spark, but seem tame compared to the explosions occurring on the screen in Johannesburg with Reynolds and Washington. Farmiga and Gleeson do get out of the box, but too late in the film for the resonance sought from their stories’ twists.
Overall, Safe House is a worthy thriller, in some ways the most suspenseful we’ve seen since Bourne in terms of its ability to transport a viewer to a place where the lives onscreen are the embodiment of what audiences would expect from the characters telling the story with their emotions and actions.
Richard Roeper reviews Safe House starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds
Safe House | Richard Roeper | Denzel Washington | Ryan Reynolds | Roeper's Movie Reviews
Vera Farmiga is set to join the thriller Safe House, according to Deadline. She will join Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington and will play a supervisor to Ryan Reynold's character.
Reynolds stars as a young CIA agent who becomes a house sitter at a governmental safe house. Washington will play a criminal who is being housed there, but will need to be transported safely to another house when the safe house is attacked.
Safe House is currently filming in South Africa and is set to be released on February 10, 2012.
Farmiga recently appeared opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code.