Safe House has Denzel Washington return to the role everyone loves him for; that untouchable, bad ass, man of the hour kind of role that he's essentially played the majority of his career. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds sets out to try to prove he's capable of being more than a raunchy goofball. CIA agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) has anxiously been waiting to prove himself. He's been babysitting an empty safe house for twelve months and is eager to get out in the field. Matt gets his chance when Tobin Frost (Washington), ex-CIA agent, traitor to the organization, and currently one of the CIA's most wanted fugitives, is escorted there. But things are turned upside down when a group of unknown soldiers attack the safe house and take out the entire team who accompanied Frost. Now in over his head, Matt tries to cope with handling the situation on his own while Frost does his best to manipulate the rookie.
You'll probably notice the visual style of Safe House right away. It makes full use of that raw, gritty style. It's especially grainy at times as fluorescent lighting seems to jump off the screen. Judging by how the movie looks alone, you'd think Tony Scott directed it. But it's actually the English language debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. So it just seems as though he patterned Safe House after Tony Scott's films. It doesn't take long for negotiations to get tense. Those moments in between the mayhem are when Safe House is at its best. It's like a game of tug of war between Frost's way of manipulating and Matt's attempt to stick to protocol while also juggling a relationship. Those moments of panic are explosive; especially the one at the safe house Matt was in charge of and the intense car chase immediately afterwards. Safe House has a way of getting really LOUD when you're totally expecting it. It usually involves a gunshot or six, but it's kind of the movie's way of telling you that some heavy stuff is about to go down.
The majority of the movie is basically Matt trying to prove himself as an agent all while absolutely everything that you could imagine to go wrong does. Safe House is actually pretty damn good for nearly half of the movie. Sure, Denzel is playing a character you've seen him play a few dozen times before but he does it so well and the audience obviously eats it up. So why wouldn't you give the paying viewer what they want to see? Ryan Reynolds makes the most of his performance though. He seems to be the most emotionally invested actor of the film meaning he shows the most emotion and has the most range. The movie kind of gets coiled up in itself with everything it has going for it in the last twenty minutes or so. It's like it couldn't handle the pressure of being a fairly strong action thriller or something. It becomes extremely excessive and it throws a ton of twists at you in this small amount of time. It's difficult to care about any of them when all of the characters feel so similar and you can pretty much see them coming a mile away. The movie follows this certain path that you may be expecting, but then it shifts direction before shifting again and shifting back again. Did you ever see the movie Basic with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson? Safe House was reminiscent of the amount of twists in Basic.
Safe House begins as this white knuckled thriller with a fairly strong screenplay from first time screenwriter David Guggenheim. The action is heavy, the story reels you in, and the performances of both Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are pretty superb. Everything eventually falls apart though as Safe House falls victim to stereotypical mediocrity. Brutal and intriguing at times and completely frustrating at others, Safe House is mostly exactly what you're expecting and the type of action thriller you've seen done several times before. It's basically a safe bet for success.
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You've seen this movie on countless occasions; Freaky Friday, Face/Off, Freaky Friday again, The Skeleton Key, and Freaky Friday a third time amongst a half a dozen other movies I'm probably overlooking. Body swapping isn't exactly a new concept. Truth be told though, while the idea has been used in an R-rated film before it may be something new to the R-rated comedy genre. Maybe that's why we're taking this rather redundant feeling trip once again or maybe it's only to capitalize on Ryan Reynolds blossoming popularity and have long time fans of his reminisce about their first time watching Van Wilder. The Change-Up is coming whether you like it or not and while it isn't the funniest film of the year or even the most original, it isn't quite as bad as you might be expecting.
Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) has been working hard his whole life. He thrived to make work the most important thing in his life and that shows as he's one of the best lawyers in town. Meanwhile Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) has barely worked a day in his life and tends to quit anything when it shows the first signs of difficulty. Dave never seems to have time for anything while Mitch just wants someone to come home to and feel appreciated. So after a night at the bar and a conversation while urinating in a public fountain the two accidentally switch bodies.
Raunchiness rears its ugly head not even five minutes into the movie. The Change-Up is probably the most obscene and easily the most vulgar movie of the year, at least thus far. The things that come out of Mitch Planko's mouth, whether he's in the body of Ryan Reynolds or Jason Bateman, walks a thin line between being profane and being downright offensive. It's so unbelievable that you can't help but laugh at times. The really bizarre thing is that I couldn't help but somewhat relate to the Mitch character. Not so much the sleeping around with countless women part, but his sense of humor, use of vulgarity, and dislike for children. That's basically me in a nutshell.
Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds do a pretty flawless job of swapping each other's roles. The roles they both start off with are pretty much the roles we've always seen the two actors play, so seeing them switch it up a bit was kind of interesting. Jason Bateman will always bring a little bit of Michael Bluth with him wherever he goes while Reynolds will probably always be seen as Van Wilder first. That's part of their charm and part of the appeal for the fans that have been following them longer than a year or two. Bateman playing the douchebag is actually a lot of fun though and Reynolds is kind of charming in the nice guy role in an awkward and goofy kind of way. Their chemistry is really the thing that makes the comedy work as well as it does. Leslie Mann also has her moments, which usually come once her husband starts acting like his best friend. This is probably Olivia Wilde's best movie performance in the past few years though. She was so boring in both TRON: Legacy and Cowboys & Aliens. At least in this she gets to show that she's both professional and has a kinkier side while portraying much more emotion than in those two films.
The movie progressively snowballs further and further into ridiculous territory as it drudges on though. The scene in the kitchen where Mitch is trying to figure out how to feed Dave's children just about ruined the entire thing for me and the whole Tatiana thing is really stretching it. Each character gets to coach the other while in the other's respective body and those scenes might have honestly been the best in the movie. They were concise and had all the strongest points of the movie in those segments. It's a shame the entire movie couldn't quite hold onto that throughout its duration. With all the fecal matter going into people's mouths, ball cupping, genital shaving, and women being shown on the toilet at inopportune moments, the toilet humor got to be a bit much at times and that's coming from a guy who's a fan of that type of humor.
The Change-Up is slightly above the mediocre line for R-rated comedies this year. It's slightly similar to Hall Pass with a little bit of Bridesmaids and Your Highness thrown in for good measure. While it is fairly humorous at times, its outrageousness is its own downfall as certain bits are too ridiculous for its own good. However, The Change-Up was still a crowd pleaser and is sure to at least make a modest profit at the box office.
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