DETAILS

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writer:  David Guggenheim

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Ruben Blades, Robert Patrick, Nora Arnezeder, Joel Kinnaman & Liam Cunningham

Budget: $85,000,000 (estimated)

Gross: $126,181,630 (domestic) + $76,301,098 (overseas) = $202,482,728 (worldwide)

Denzel Washington's second biggest opener and Ryan Reynolds' third biggest opener.

Daniel Espinosa is a Swedish director of Chilean descent and directed the hit Swedish film Snabba Cash (Easy Money) in 2010.  

Blu-ray release date: June 5 2012

REVIEW

This film is review-proof.

It doesn't matter what I or anyone else says about it. Director, Daniel Espinosa adopts a very, very Tony Scott look and it stars two of the most charismatic actors working in Hollywood. It landed firmly in the upper ranks of the heap of the last ten years' worth of action adventures, falling just short of Bourne profits, and has a visceral, brutal feel that will ensure repeated viewings by fans of this genre.

It just doesn't matter that David Guggenheim's script is extraordinarily predictable, because it is executed in a way that stages the story in a fresh environment (Cape Town, South Africa) and throws enough big-name supporting actors into the mix to make it worth watching just to see what they all bring to the table.

And I wouldn't say it's not worth checking out. Washington and Reynolds have good chemistry together and who doesn't like a story where the idealistic youngster learns some harsh lessons about life, but is able to maintain their innate goodness without succumbing to the cynicism of those around him?

Plus, there are enough punches, crashes, and explosions to make your neighbors cringe when you turn the volume up to hear the mumbled, whispery dialogue and suddenly the brutal violence breaks out.

As far as the aesthetics go, the sound leaves something to be desired for the above reason, and the super saturated colors kind of bugged me, but your mileage may vary. This is Espinosa's first American film and the reliance on visual and plot clichés is a bit disappointing, but I suppose one has to choose one's fights.

Espinosa presents himself as a director more concerned with character than with action and as such there are a number of nice small moments that do their best to avoid your run-of-the-mill action beats. There are no wise-cracks (and with Reynolds in the cast, that's a feat in itself) or catch-phrases. The hand-to-hand combat is brutal and effective. And in the end, everybody (except Sam Sheppard and Nora Arnezeder) has horrible amounts of violence performed upon them.

I imagine he didn't have a lot of wiggle room with this one, and as far as first time American films by promising international directors go, this isn't too bad. With more freedom from the studio and directorial control, this could have turned into something special.

EXTRAS

U-Control Features: Picture-in-Picture track featuring interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, stunt and fight choreography, along with occasional access to production photos, storyboards, and other extras. Someday I'm going to really access this sort of thing and try to get the full experience, but I haven't really experienced one that drew me in. A nice extra, nonetheless.

Universal Second Screen Experience: Download app to your tablet, Mac or PC, synchronize with the film, and access similar features on your second screen. Interesting, but not my cup of tea.

Making of Safe House (HD, 11 minutes): Interesting tidbits of information (like the fact that this screenplay was a highly placed "Black List" script (a ranking of the best unproduced screenplays each year) are scattered through this short promotional documentary. The central focus is on director Espinosa and actors Washington and Reynolds. While it doesn't really enlighten the viewer to anything significant, it's a nice little peek into the production, enhanced by the rest of the extras.  Not sure what the benefit is of breaking these all up other than to make it seem like you get more extras for your money, when it could have been one nicely stuffed making-of documentary.

Hand-to-Hand Action (HD, 8 minutes): Just what it says. A look at the combat in the film. As stated above, it's brutal and realistic.

Shooting the Safe House Attack (HD, 5 minutes): Interesting mainly for showing how the sequence was planned, staged, and acted, with attention paid to establishing the emotional reactions of the actors. Robert Patrick is the main focus and comes across as very likeable.

Building the Rooftop Chase (HD, 4 minutes): They built their own shanty town to shoot up. That's kind of cool.

Behind the Action (HD, 8 minutes): Surprisingly boring. Just a by-the-numbers look at the way the action sequences were put together overall. Would have worked better if it had been edited together with some of these other shorter pieces.

Inside the CIA (HD, 6 minutes): Same kind of thing here, with a short piece letting us know they had a real ex-CIA agent on-set as a consultant. Interesting, but more about establishing credibility than adding insight into the film making process.

Safe Harbor: Cape Town (HD, 9 minutes): A look at Cape Town, South Africa, where the film was shot. We get a good look at the diversity of locations. Very pretty stuff that serves as sort of a sizzle real for Cape Town. Plan your vacation now!

FINAL WORD

What could have been an extremely tired and tedious action film was livened up, for me anyway, with brief appearances by Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham, and the new Robocop, Joel Kinnaman (of whom I'm not a great fan, but I seem to keep reviewing films and TV shows in which he appears). I wouldn't say I enjoyed the film, but it wasn't something I regret checking out. I'm just not a huge fan of this genre, as there really doesn't seem to be a lot of unique stories to be told.

And this one is not really unique at all, either in its plotting or in its execution. The performances are the thing here, and Washington is as good as one would expect, while Reynolds mostly redeems himself from the debacle that was Green Lantern.

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Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

About The Author

Paul Brian McCoy

Paul Brian McCoy is the Editor-in-Chief of Psycho Drive-In, writer of Mondo Marvel, and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.