High-Speed Ride

Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington make a great team in the thriller 'Safe House'

Look ... Ryan Reynolds is actually in a good movie!

Mind you, the dark and bloody Safe House is not a great film, but it does feature Reynolds and a guy named Denzel Washington providing some potent acting fireworks. They combine to make this action thriller well worth watching.

Reynolds plays Matt Weston, a CIA operative who has spent a year sitting in a safe house, bouncing a ball against a wall and listening to tunes. He longs for a big assignment in the field, but the organization seems content to keep him out of the way while performing menial tasks.

Things change when Tobin Frost (Washington) is brought to his house for some questioning—and some good old-fashioned waterboarding. Frost is a former agent gone rogue who has been selling secrets to enemy countries. He's also a dangerous, murderous son of a bitch. Throw into the mix that he's also virtuous, and you have a typically complicated Washington character.

Much goes wrong when a band of baddies infiltrates the safe house, and Matt must take Tobin on a high-speed ride. This particular car chase is bona fide proof that director Daniel Espinosa does a bang-up job with action scenes. It sets the bar high for the rest of the film—and Espinosa doesn't disappoint. The film is stacked with great chase scenes, car crashes and nerve-racking shootouts.

Reynolds, an actor I happen to like a lot, is very good here as a sensitive agent who will break your freaking neck if you push him too far. The role is physically demanding, as Matt is put through the wringer with many hand-to-hand-combat moments. Reynolds can look beat up with the best of them.

Washington does a great job working with a younger actor here, as he did with Chris Pine in Unstoppable. He and Reynolds make a great but complicated team. Washington shows he's a pro who knows exactly what he needs to do to provide substantial entertainment. This is not up there with his best roles, but Washington makes Frost a memorable character.

The film is full of reliable actors and actresses. Vera Farmiga is good as a senior agent with questionable motives; also good is Brendan Gleeson. Sam Shepard is fun as the man in charge of it all who seems to have had enough of the whole spy-game thing. Rubén Blades is great in a small but pivotal role as Frost's friend.

The film does have a few flaws. The romance between Matt and his justifiably confused girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) is disposable; it could be left out and would not be missed at all. Also, while some of Matt's choices seem tragically stupid, that could be chalked up to his being a novice. Still, his stupidity gets a bit grating at times.

There's a good mystery at the center of the picture, and I won't spoil it here; I'll just say it kept me guessing until the very end. It's hard to pull the wool over these well-worn eyes, but Espinosa and friends managed to do a good job of it. Making Espinosa's feat all the more impressive is the fact that Safe House is his English-language film debut. I'm thinking he'll get some more work.

So there you have it: Ryan Reynolds is in a good movie. He manages about a good one in every five or six films. I'm curious to see if he can start a streak.

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