An unexpected box-off ice hit, Safe House’s solid casting and full-pelt pace proved a shrewd investment.
While Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (2010’s Snabba Cash) makes a confident US debut, the lack of originality in newbie David Guggenheim’s script doesn’t quite justify its Black List placing.
Ryan Reynolds tones down his cocky act as CIA ‘housekeeper’ Matt Weston. He’s hungry for field experience, which he’s about to get by the bucketload when ruthless secret-selling rogue agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) turns himself in.
The charismatic duo are top value, bringing conviction to a well-worn dynamic that casts them as rookie and predatory ward when they end up on the run together.
Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson are among the many dependable faces boosting predictable support roles (and keep ’em peeled for Snabba Cash star and future RoboCop Joel Kinnaman).
Espinosa draws out decent thesping across the board, lending welcome heft to the hyperactive lensing and action scenes that occasionally stretch credulity.
But what really elevates Safe House is the location. Not the titular facility, which is used for a spot of light waterboarding before being emptied by a tense siege, but the Cape Town setting.
The destitute shanty towns, bustling centre and striking natural backdrops add colour to what’s at heart a fairly routine thriller: you won’t have to be one of the CIA’s finest to get the jump on a couple of twists.
Cursory extras comprise a set of short featurettes offering scant insight into the shoot (five on Blu, just one if you’ve bought the DVD).