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Safehoue Review

Safe House is your standard "cat and mouse" action thriller. I wasn't expecting it to blow my eyeballs out of their sockets with its action scenes, or have the hamster that powers the wheel keeping my brain functioning to spin off its axis. It's a solid film, like constructing an apartment block, it stands vertical, and fits a few families in it, it's nothing special, but it does its job, what more do you want?

Before the film started, I was already in a sour mood. Firstly, someone broke the unspoken cinema code of conduct by sitting right behind me with a jumbo size bucket of Styrofoam popcorn. They then proceeded to chew it with the gusto of Tom Hanks in Castaway after he returns home and finally gets to ingest something other than speared fish. Secondly, the infuriating Inception "BRRRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRWRRRMRMRMMRMRMMMMM!!!" dotted every single trailer. It was like the composer sat next to me, and every time the horn sounded, he nudged me and said: "It's awesome right?"

So back to Safe House, in which, "A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge." So the safe house turns out to not be particularly safe.

Ryan Reynolds, who plays Matt Weston, is a safe house "caretaker," who houses the visitors (fugitives) that arrive. With last year's Green Lantern scratched from my memory, Ryan Reynolds possesses an entertaining back catalogue of work, from Vanwilder to the new Deadpool film in production.

Let's not forget acting powerhouse Denzel Washington, who plays Tobin Frost, the rogue CIA agent who Weston spends the majority of the film chasing. Washington always delivers in films and is a joy to watch. The man could probably star in a three-hour epic where he does nothing but chat manically with a sock puppet in a well and it would probably be hugely entertaining.

My main pull for the movie was the two lead actors mentioned above, but we also have Brendan Gleeson playing David Barlow, Weston's boss and main line of contact when everything inevitably goes south. I think Brendan Gleeson has the same problem as Liam Neeson, where their respective accents are so strong that in moments of tension where they have to shout, they slip into their native twang.

The rest of the cast sports some familiar faces, in particular the T-1000 also known as actor Robert Patrick, one of the agents tasked with bringing Frost to the safe house.  What made his performance particularly memorable is that when the building came under attack, red warning lights began to flare, which caused his face to appear so red it looked as though he partook in an extremely risky tanning session. Either that or he was slowly turning into a tomato.

Another interesting performance was by Fares Fares (that's not a typo) who played one of the antagonists constantly dogging Weston and Frost. For some reason, the man did not say a word for 90 minutes, his only communication with anyone in the form of constant and undiluted scowling. Throughout the film, it looked as if he was angrily glaring at some point in the middle distance that had somehow offended him.

Characters aside, the plot was nothing particularly groundbreaking, the only particular unique element being the locale of South Africa where we're treated to nice shots of both the inner city, and the more impoverished neighbourhoods. There is a mystery element to the film revolving around the information that Frost has got his hands on, which of course will expose corruption in many facets of government. Information always does that; you'd think they'd have a better way to store it now that times have moved on.

The problem with this that not only has it been done to death with practically every film revolving around government intelligence, but it also feels tacked on in an attempt to distinguish it from "another" action/thriller film. If you're going to include it, make sure it's a fully rounded and relevant concept, not just a device which is there to inject mystery like a syringe filled with celluloid.

Speaking of the government, I don't think I've seen them presented as this inept in any film I've seen. They accomplish nothing. The personnel in the control room, aside from the three main agents, didn't really do anything. They were constantly stuck to their phones furiously barking orders but I suspect this was subterfuge, and in reality, they just argued with the person next to them to pretend they were doing busy work. The three main agents spent the first half of the film telling Weston to keep Frost subdued because their contacts were constantly "18 hours away" and then for the rest of the film, when Weston had done all of the work, they instructed him to report to them. It's as if they were debating the delivery of an Ikea package and whether it was easier to just get a refund or hope it arrives in the mail. In short, they appeared quite incompetent.

Another gripe as far as Weston's character goes is the inclusion of his girlfriend, whose only purpose in the film is to be a device which adds tension and conflict. While this is a good thing in dramatic terms, when characters are underdeveloped they take away dramatics and are often redundant. The film could have worked just as well if they cut her character out completely. This is also present with the man himself, as his supposed main reason for being dedicated to his job is because he wants a transfer and is "proving himself". That's all well and good, and I know it's his job, it just ends up coming off as a little weak when a character gives us his motivation in one line and we're supposed to go "well that sounds fine to me, I've heard enough."

The action was nicely paced but there seemed to be a stop and start feeling to it, like a stalling car. Instead of the action slowly cranking up higher and higher until it reaches a dramatic peak, it petered out and felt very by the numbers. It was as if they had the dramatic scenes down, and then went along saying: "Alright, we'll just put a car chase in there, maybe have a gun fight here." It broke the flow; however, the scenes were certainly well choreographed enough and interesting so I can't fault them to a great degree.

Now I've had time to digest the film I can say that it wasn't terribly bad, or terribly good. It's an average film elevated beyond its mediocrity by solid lead performances and entertaining action scenes. If you want to kill just under two hours of your time and not come away with any regrets, you should give it a chance.

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