Early on in the derivative but fairly absorbing blur titled
The moment may or may not have been scripted, but you certainly appreciate it. You also appreciate how Swedish-born director Daniel Espinosa delivers harsh jolts a beat before you expect this car to smash into that car, or this character to calmly pull out a gun and murder that one. Editor Richard Pearson surely shares the credit for those jagged edges.
Make no mistake, though: No matter how much "Safe House" owes to the look, feel, concerns and cutting of Paul Greengrass' "The Bourne Supremacy" and
Ryan Reynolds co-stars as Frost's handler, the CIA operative who has languished for a year in Cape Town, disguising himself as a health worker while bugging his boss back at Langley, played by Brendan Gleeson, for a better post. (Nora Arnezeder portrays his nominal French love interest.) Frost has been "off the grid" (the expression comes up a lot here) for a decade, but when an intel-for-cash transaction goes haywire, the wily ex-CIA star turns himself in and finds himself whisked off to the safe house. It is promptly attacked by mercenaries looking for Frost and his precious intel, and from there the film becomes an extended, frenzied action sequence.
Following the "Bourne" template, those muttering back in the CIA headquarters control room cannot control a damn thing. Sam Shepard and
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.
'Safe House' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for strong violence throughout and some language)
Running time: 1:55