Director Daniel Espinosa makes his English language debut with Safe House; an action thriller starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Safe House does a great job mimicking other styles made popular by Tony Scott and Paul Greengrass, which include grainy and over-saturated video presentation, plus gritty and dark characters, with some R-rated violence sprinkled it. The only problem Safe House has is the fact that this EXACT film has been done before countless times and done much better. Even Washington’s bad boy persona is lifted straight out of Training Day. Espinosa gets an A in copying and an F in making something new or even slightly original.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a hungry field officer that’s looking for a promotion. He’s done the coffee boy work and now he wants a real job. This real job lands directly in his lap when fugitive Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is delivered to his safe house. Things start to get frantic almost the second Frost gets dropped off.
The safe house is quickly compromised and Weston must figure out who he can and cannot trust. He takes Frost with him and in doing so he allows Frost to slowly plant the seed of doubt. Weston is now playing mind games with Frost, while trying to avoid death or deadly force from rogue agents, nameless bad guys and people that he thought he could trust.
Safe House is seriously a combination of the last 5 Tony Scott and Paul Greengrass films, plus Denzel’s role from Training Day. It’s shot with a gritty and unfocused eye that mistakes shaky cameras for action and it’s predictable and mind-numbingly boring. Safe House literally had me snoozing within 20 minutes. I don’t recall the last time I actually fell asleep in the theater, but there’s something about Safe House that puts you in a comatose trance that you just can’t kick.
It’s the very definition of auto-pilot and while I can see why Washington and Reynolds came onto the project I just can’t seem to see how Espinosa wasted this much talent. He’s got Washington playing a far less interesting Alonzo from Training Day and Reynolds sort of picking up where his Smokin’ Aces character left off, but without the edge and bad ass decision making.
If compliments should be given out to Espinosa it should be for successfully making a film that looks like something that would have Tony Scott‘s name plastered all over it, but I don’t think that was his exact intentions. And to be completely fair, my mentioning of Paul Greengrass isn’t accurate, because Greengrass knows how to properly utilize hand-held camera shots, where Espinosa surely doesn’t.
Safe House is an offensively slow and boring action film that doesn’t utilize its talent in any way. It’s got all the makings of a 5 dollar throwaway title from the bargain bin at Wal Mart, but even then you’re better off picking up something with a little more flavor.
Universal’s 1080p video transfer replicates the grit and grain. It’s intentionally shot with this dirty look and yet it still boasts clarity and strong colors. Safe House isn’t the prettiest looking Blu-Ray, but it’s not meant to be and this video transfer reminds you of that.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has got a little fire in her, but dialogue takes a beating when the music and explosions start coming at you from all channels. I hate when dialogue cracks under the pressure of the rest of the track, but Safe House does have a few occasional scenes where quiet dialogue can almost become a bother.
Here’s a breakdown of the special features:
- U-Control (HD)
- Universal Second Screen Experience
- Making Safe House (HD)
- Hand-To-Hand Action (HD)
- Shooting the Safe House Attack (HD)
- Building the Rooftop Chase (HD)
- Behind the Action (HD)
- Inside the CIA (HD)
- Safe Harbor: Cape Town (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
- Digital Copy
Safe House will disappoint even those looking for a quick action fix. It’s not a bad film from a technical standpoint, but anyone that’s seen anything knows that it blatantly rips off dozens of other films. The problem with that comes at the hands of the pacing, which moves slow enough to try and act clever whenever a twist is revealed, but the reality of it is that you know every move this film makes before it even rounds a corner. Safe House is way too safe and tediously drawn out, leaving the little action bits feeling like a wasted afterthought.
The Blu-Ray is faithful in terms of Daniel Espinosa‘s gritty presentation and muffled audio. The special features give you a better look at how they filmed the action and how they filmed on location, which is always a plus. Finally, rounding out the package is the usual digital copy and DVD copy, which makes for a more complete package.