Out & About

February 16, 2012

'Safe House' a safe bet

Take a few strong actors, give them some questionable motives, and throw them into a mixture of shootouts and car chases. That's about as safe a formula as Hollywood has.

It works just as designed in the frenetic thriller "Safe House."

The story isn't exceptional, but the movie rarely slows down, and the performances by Ryan Reynolds and, especially, Denzel Washington are above average.

Reynolds stars as Matt Weston, a low-level CIA operative who has spent many boring months patrolling a South African safe house that never has a resident to keep safe. Yes, he has a gorgeous French girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder), but life is otherwise so very boring.

Enter Washington, as too-cool-for-the-CIA Tobin Frost, a rogue agent who left the agency a decade ago and has since made a living — and the Most Wanted list — by selling off secrets to whoever can pay.

Frost is transported to Weston's dusty safe house, which soon proves to be anything but safe and propels the two adversaries — the inexperienced but gifted newcomer, and the slick, seen-it-all veteran — off on a thrill ride of chases and bloody fights.

Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson play three CIA honchos who watch the action from afar, bickering among themselves and barking out orders. Joel Kinnaman (of TV's "The Killing") has a small but memorable role as Reynolds's counterpart in another safe house.

Reynolds, better known for his comedies such as "The Proposal," plays Matt without a smirk and earns some action-star street cred. Washington, however, is the scene stealer — a superb and charismatic villain who seems unruffled by any situation, up to and including torture.

"Safe House" has plenty of twists and turns, if not any real surprises. The action-set pieces are well-done — though dizzying at times — and the film never pauses for a breath.

"Safe House" is a safe bet if you want to see bullets, blood and action.

Rental Recommendation: Ryan Reynolds spends virtually all of "Buried" in an underground coffin, a surprising, if claustrophobic, thriller. Grade: B

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