Upon exiting the theater after seeing Safe House, audiences were doing the Winter Movie Watusi, which involves a lot of shrugging and not bothering to ask for a refund. Because we have already seen and liked the Bourne movies, Man on Fire, and the color correction in Traffic, we sat through it again with Safe House and thought it was…fine.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has one job: watch over his safe house and any guest that comes into it. He does not work at a bed and breakfast serving abs for days, but rather the CIA version of an interrogation building where they waterboard their guests instead of offering turn-down service. When rogue spy Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) gets brought in and the building falls under siege, Matt has to keep Frost in his possession and alive, despite all the baddies chasing them. And of course it's a very straightforward story where everything is as it seems (sarcasm intended).
Denzel Washington is always more entertaining when he's being bad--the last time he messed with a white boy's head this much, he won an Oscar for it. Although there's no chance of that in this derivative movie, when he's not busy sitting and staring at Ryan Reynolds, he's doing his usual elevate-the-entire-movie-to-my-level thing that he does just by blinking a certain way. Their exchanges never amount to more than Reynolds saying, "Get in this room" and Denzel saying, "I don't wanna" but their performances at least complement each other in intensity. Relief arrives when Reynolds finally ditches the "Oh my stars, is this really happening?" look to get to shootin' and killin'. And get to it he does, because at the end of the film, everyone's bodies are in ruin.
The strongest punch from the film lands smack on your adrenal glands. The car chases, gun battles, and explosions distract just enough from the predictable storyline for you to indulge in that side of you that wants people to solve problems with a roundhouse kick and a one-liner. But the movie is never good enough to make you forget, as Denzel and Ryan glower at each other, that it's all achingly familiar.