Safe House

Denzel Washington fascinates me. More accurately, Denzel Washington's career fascinates me. He's one of a handful of A-list Hollywood African Americans who have maintained their box office appeal through savvy choices. He's done TV (St. Elsewhere) and Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing) and Spike Lee (a lot) and has never, in my opinion, appeared in, backed or directed a truly bad film. Many of his films are thoughtful explorations of human relations and weakness (Fallen) and many of them are richly textured examinations of black life in America (Antwone Fisher) more than a few are have the military as a backdrop. Some are decidedly weaker than others but each is boosted, considerably, by the sheer discipline of Washington performances. He's a force of nature -- but not an earthquake. He's more like a Hurricane. (Couldn't resist.) In the last decade or so, he's paired up with good to excellent B to B+ list Hollywood heartthrobs -- Ethan Hawke in Training Day, Chris Pine in Unstoppable and now Ryan Reynolds in Daniel Espinosa's Safe House, a good film with a mountainous body count and a story that is frustratingly incomplete. Washington plays a rogue CIA agent who for about a decade has been acquiring and selling secrets about undercover operations sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. Reynolds is the safe house "housekeeper" in Cape Town, South Africa, charged with delivering Washington's Tobin Frost to Langley when Frost turns himself in to the American consulate after a failed attempt on his life. The action is pretty much confined to Cape Town but there's plenty of it, maybe more than is actually needed. The story -- which owes a huge debt to the Bourne trilogy -- desperately needs more quiet moments between Washington and Reynolds, who is splendid, so that the audience can actually feel what's happening between these two men because that's where the real spy vs. spy story is. As a side note, who knew Berg of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place would turn into such a fine actor? I didn't but Reynolds delivers.


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