Blu-ray Review: Safe House

Safe House Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa | CAST: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 6/2/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: featurettes, Second Screen, UltraViolet, digital copy
SPECS: R | 115 min. | Action, Thriller | 2.40:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, Spanish, French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Safe HouseExplosive is a good way to describe the action thriller movie Safe House. Ryan Reynolds (The Change-Up) and Denzel Washington (Malcolm X) battle gunshots, car crashes, hand-to-hand fighting and more, all while we try to guess who the bad guy is.

Reynolds plays ambitious CIA agent Matt Weston, who’s tasked with protecting rogue CIA agent and prisoner Tobin Frost (Washington). Prior to surrendering, Washington was under attack, and once he’s in the supposedly secret safe house, the attack continues. Hmm, maybe it’s an inside job. Not experienced in any of this kind of intrigue, Reynolds’ Weston tries to keep Washington’s Frost alive, but as he tries to evade the bad guys, he doesn’t know who to trust.

The story itself is simple and doesn’t have too much depth. Bad guys are after good guys, good guys run, bad guys give chase. Denzel’s Frost has a few more layers. He balances between a good guy and a bad guy, and it’s easy to predict what his character arc will be. Reynold’s Weston is more one-dimensional. Sure, he’s got a girlfriend who has to keep in the dark, but ultimately, he’s a good guy trying to decide who else is on his side.

The performances are fine across the board, with a shout out to Brendan Gleeson (The Guard), who’s particularly prickly as the CIA mentor who’s harboring secrets. Washington is solid, but his performance is nothing we haven’t seen before in movies such as Man On Fire.

Director Daniel Espinosa (Easy Money) keeps the pace moving. There’s barely a minute to figure out what’s going on before somebody else has been shot or something is exploding. It’s action piece, action piece, action piece, padded with a few tension-filled slower moments to keep the audience on edge. With so much action, the movie’s script, the first feature film written by David Guggenheim, isn’t as tight, lacking in depth and, in some places, plausibility. But overall, Safe House provides a good couple of hours of action-packed entertainment.

The Blu-ray has even more, filled with featurettes that cover just about every aspect of the film’s production, as well as a picture-in-picture option that pops up behind-the-scenes footage and interviews while the movie plays.

The best featurette is “Safe Harbor: Cape Town,” in which the actors, Espinosa and others talk lovingly about the place that was their home for the shooting. All were impressed by the beauty of the South African city, from the mountains, to the ornate buildings and the surrounding sea. They even found beauty in the poor areas, where Reynolds said he saw people who were happier than he was used to, even though they have a lot less — a lesson, he said. Washington admits he was very touched by the people there, and others were prompted to donate time and funds to help.

Other featurettes explore the stuntwork for the film’s many car crashes, the hand-to-hand combat training and what it took to shoot two of the biggest sequences in the film: the safe house attack and the rooftop chase. Both draw back the curtain, with shooting footage and interviews with actors and behind the camera staffers spilling their filmmaking secrets.

Another featurette, “Inside the CIA,” features Luis Falcon, a former CIA agent turned Hollywood consultant who helped the production team get the film close to reality. He points out that his biggest movie pet peeve is that the CIA doesn’t have “agents” but “case workers.” Guess they took artistic license for that one.


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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.