‘Safe House’: The Reviews Are In!

Critics point out similarities to the ‘Bourne’ series and even Denzel Washington’s previous work.
By Kevin P. Sullivan
Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in “Safe House”
Photo: Universal Pictures Denzel Washington returns as a cynical old pro who must work with a novice in order to survive. This time it’s called “Safe House,” and Washington plays a rogue CIA operative under the protection of a rookie, played by Ryan Reynolds. “Safe House” has earned middling reviews, many of which take note of the film’s similarities to both the “Bourne” franchise and Washington’s previous work with director Tony Scott. Here is our roundup of reviews for “Safe House”: The Story
“Washington plays the notorious Tobin Frost, a brilliant former CIA operative who’s turned traitor, selling secrets to any nation or enemy cell willing to buy them. After years on the run, he turns himself in at the American embassy in Cape Town, South Africa. He’s then taken to the local agency safe house where Reynolds, as the ambitious Matt Weston, is its bored, rookie minder. Matt longs to prove himself and see some real action in the field, and he gets it sooner than he expects when the house comes under a vicious, heavily armed attack and he and Tobin must go on the run together.” — Christy Lemire, The Associated Press The Stars
“Mr. Washington, it almost goes without saying, is its anchor; when he’s on screen everything seems to matter more, so much so that a prequel seems inevitable. How Frost became the man that he did is one of the mysteries, as is how well Weston and the actor playing him will rise to the occasion. Mr. Reynolds, whose curiously unsettled career is its own puzzle, here rises to meet Mr. Washington’s challenge, investing Weston with a slow-building, believable vulnerability.” — Manohla Dargis, New York Times The Action
“The movie, as if on an action time clock, punches in the standard set pieces: bloody fights, clattering shoot-outs, an escape through a packed soccer stadium. Some of this stuff is well-done, and some of it has been done a lot better. Yet ‘Safe House’, even when it’s pummeling you effectively, has very little up its sleeve. Basically, the movie is a fizzless ‘Bourne’ episode crossed with ‘Training Day,’ featuring Washington as a good-egg-gone-rotten who, you know, has his reasons. Mostly, he schools Matt, his guard-turned-pursuer, in what it means to lie.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly The Director
“Director Espinosa shoots virtually everything in tight but wobbly close-up, and the human and vehicular combat often brakes right at the edge of visual incoherence. Just as often the brakes give out completely. Even at its most frantic and mechanical, the movie relies on Washington to provide a visual anchor, some sociopathic calm amid the storm.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune The Final Word
“Essentially a two-hour chase with a few brief breaks to catch its breath, ‘Safe House’ is an elemental cat-and-mouse game elaborated to the point of diminishing returns. Terse and understated, this is a spy vs. spy tale designed to minimize talk and maximize action, not at all a bad thing in movies but over-worked to near-exhaustion here.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter Check out everything we’ve got on “Safe House.” For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit

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