Gritty espionage thriller

Safe House Universal Rating: 14A 115 minutes

Safe House is a so-so spy thriller set in South Africa, for a change of location, but with North American stars like Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington.

Washington plays a notorious rogue CIA agent in possession of a mysterious file that has equally mysterious and unusually well-informed nasties chasing him.

He turns himself into the American embassy to avoid them and is taken to a CIA safe house, staffed by Reynolds, in Capetown for interrogation. However, the nasties are soon on the scene too and kill everyone except for our two stars who are now on the run.

Meanwhile back in Washington at CIA headquarters Sam Shepherd, Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson plays bosses issuing orders to Reynolds. Obviously one of them is also a traitor giving info to the nasties since they always seem to know just where to go.

Mostly this film is one big, often thrilling, chase sequence and it has a fair share of gritty excitement. But sometimes the shootouts, car crashes and bloody fights seems endless; it all goes on too long to a not especially satisfying conclusion.

The camerawork is particularly irritating. Many action scenes are filmed with a shaky hand-held camera to, presumably, make it seem more exciting. However, the fuzziness and jerky editing make it worse, not better. Isn’t this why they invented the Steadicam; a camera that moves and follows the action but still takes steady, focussed shots?

Probably too much action here, and not enough plot, nor any especially noteworthy acting from Washington and Reynolds.

Rating: three deer out of five

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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.