R, 1 hr. 55 min. Directed By: Daniel Espinosa. In Theaters: Feb 10, 2012. On DVD: Jun 5, 2012.
When you think of history’s most perfect collaborations, you get an odd assortment of combinations: chocolate and peanut butter, the ratel and the honey guide, (for some) Fred and Ginger, Lucy and Desi. Some less inspiring, but no less (in)famous collaborations would include Republicans and Democrats, Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. When I think of those great collaborations, no thought has ever, EVER come in to my head about the pairing of Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. There’s probably a reason for that, and Safe House proves the point.
I had a hard time getting involved in this movie. I’m just going to lay it out on the table. Reynolds, per the norm, toed the line between action and comedy, making it hard to take his character seriously… although based on the dialogue, we weren’t supposed to take his character seriously. The down side of that is that I have a problem rooting for someone that I can’t take seriously. And in this movie, which struggled for something Bourne-like, we really needed to root for someone.
I had a lot of issues with this movie on some very fundamental levels. For a movie about espionage, none of these folks seemed to be very, well, covert. I’m not a spy, nor have I played one on TV, but I have worked in the industry in a low-level capacity, and the ability to not stick out is kind of a plus. I don’t even need tradecraft training for that. It’s just that rare skill called common sense. There was a lot of very public spy stuff, and I’m not even considering the car chase through the crowded streets of Cape Town.
And that brings me to another issue. Why did this need to take place in Cape Town? I mean, it’s one of my favorite cities on the planet, and the movie completely failed to do it justice. The cityscape there is stunning, particularly when you can get shots of Table Mountain in the background, and anything around the bay is beautiful. The closest they got to the more interesting points of the city were a reference to a street that runs straight to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront district, a major tourist attraction and shopping venue. The city itself is vibrant and alive, mostly thanks to the clubs that line Long Street, but the whole city has a party air to it, and that was lacking in Safe House. If you’re going to film in an exotic location, make it WORTHWHILE. It’s the second time in a few weeks that I’ve lambasted a movie for wasting resources. I hope it’s not the beginning of a trend.
I will say that I liked the performances from both Reynolds and Washingston. I was less impressed by Vera Farmiga, who I generally like. It seems that I’m going to be in line with all the folks who had mixed feelings about this movie.