Before we get into Safe House, I need to revisit a disturbing trend that I’ve talked about in the past – previews that are completely full of shit. One way they lie to us is by showing us scenes that never actually appear in the movie. I am Legend is a perfect example of this, showing us Will Smith and a zombie standing face to face, a scene that can only be found on the DVD in the alternate ending. Safe House is guilty of the same crime, showing us Ryan Reynolds and his girlfriend having sex in their bed during the preview and nothing of the sort during the movie. Granted, this scene has no value other than showing off a hot chick’s body, but considering she is completely meaningless to the film, I don’t think it’s too much to ask them not to cut that scene.
Another lie, and the more relevant one (in this case at least), is portraying the movie one way in the preview and a completely different way in the film. Specifically, Denzel Washington’s character, Tobin Frost, is described as an expert at psychology and, at one point, tells agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) “I’m already in your head.” This leads us to believe that Frost will be trying to manipulate Weston throughout the film, when in fact, that moment is the full extent of any psychology. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Matt Weston is a CIA agent, stuck in Cape Town, assigned to look after a safe house. He is extremely bored and is constantly asking his superiors for a field assignment. Tobin Frost is a rogue ex-CIA agent who has been selling secrets to the highest bidder. The action begins when Frost is chased by a bunch of guys with guns after meeting with another rogue agent and receiving a disk containing a file that Frost has “…been waiting for for a long time.” He kills several of the men and completes his escape by turning himself in to the American embassy. Since he is a wanted man, he is arrested by some CIA commandos and transferred to Weston’s safe house. In a scene that can only be described as comically stupid, they tie Frost to a chair for interrogation and assert that Frost “…will tell us who you met and what he gave you.” Despite Frost agreeing to talk, the commandos proceed to waterboard Frost. Wait, huh? They’re going to torture him AFTER he already agreed to talk? Is this why everyone is so mad about waterboarding terrorists? Because we torture them after they’ve already given us their information? Yep – comically stupid.
During this absurd little political message, the original guys with guns show up again to kill Frost. A gunfight ensues, lots of bodies fall, and Weston and Frost escape the house. Since this movie is following a formula that has been ridden more times than Seabiscuit, the next scene is obviously a car chase through the streets of Cape Town (which apparently sees its fair share of car chases, as no pedestrians even stop to look at the chase, let alone avoid the mayhem). After a few more deaths, they ditch their pursuers and we are treated to the “…in your head” nugget.
(Side note: I’ve never kept a body count during movies, but a friend asked and I could recall twenty-six specific deaths, notwithstanding random bystander deaths from the car chases and flying bullets.)
At this point, if you are keeping score, the bad guys have magically known where Frost is twice, one of them being a top secret CIA location. Conclusion – the CIA has a mole. I guess Seabiscuit hasn’t been beaten enough yet by these writers (yes, that’s TWO horse jokes/clichés). Since we have only been shown three other CIA peoples, all of which are back at some CIA command center, directing Weston on his next move, we can safely assume that one of them is the mole. Is it Vera Farmiga, who continually claims that Weston is actually helping Frost for no reason ever said out loud? Is it that guy who plays Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter (his name is Brendan Gleeson, but isn’t my way more fun?), who vehemently defends Weston because he’s “…a good kid?” Or is it their boss, Sam Shepard, who I have nothing snarky to say about? We can also deduct from this realization that Frost isn’t as bad as we’re led to believe, or what would be the purpose of the mole?
As they are driving around, Weston is given instructions to pick up a bag in a locker (seriously, the horse must be glue by now) at a crowded soccer stadium, which contains a GPS unit with directions to another safe house, where he should wait for another team to pick up Frost. Now, if you’re Weston and you also suspect a mole, are you going to follow any of these directions? Just the fact that they are asking him to take an extremely dangerous fugitive into a place containing tens of thousands of people should have thrown out a red flag or two? And, if one safe house just got breached, why the hell would you believe another one is any safer? Of course, the movie would have gotten really boring had they shown them driving in circles for twelve hours.
Suffice it to say, the script does not even try to deviate from formula, adding more car chases, shooting, bodies, and the big “reveal,” which was the least surprising reveal in the history of revelations. I’d love to tell you there are redeeming qualities to this movie, but everything in it is so obvious and blah that the only thing that will keeping you from passing out in your own popcorn are the curiously ear-splitting gun shots (nothing else in the movie is even close to the same volume). After all is said and done, you’ll probably forget this movie twenty minutes after you see it and that horse will have been renamed Elmer.
Rating: Ask for seven dollars back. I’ll at least give them credit for setting the film in a new place in Cape Town.