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February 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Several critics are drubbing the script for Safe House, starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, but they’re missing the point, other critics argue. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times suggests that the “business-as-usual” script is offset by “expert direction” by Daniel Espinosa. The Swedish director, says Turan, has given Safe House “an unmistakably stylish and unsettling tone, characterized by probing camera work, quick and edgy cutting and a fine ability to keep audiences off-balance and wondering when they’ll get a chance to catch their next breath.” Likewise, Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer, comments that with Espinosa at the controls the movie “rockets along, taking a familiar formula and making it work — hard.” Rea also credits the performance of Denzel Washington for lifting the film out of commonplace thriller status. “If Denzel Washington isn’t the coolest dude out there, I don’t know who is,” he remarks. (That’s a theme of several reviews, even the negative ones. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe writes, “Here is a star in such complete command of his cool that he can’t even be bothered to look a little nervous about the prospect of torture.” And John Anderson in the Wall Street Journal faults the filmmakers for focusing too much attention on Ryan Reynolds’s character. “What we want to watch is Mr. Washington, and of him there is not nearly enough.”) A.O. Scott in the New York Times compliments Washington for his ability to suggest “deep reserves of cool, moody mystery and smoldering feeling.” He also praises director Espinosa’s handling of the action scenes, “though it’s his work with the actors and his attention to beauty that puts Safe House a cut above the genre rest.” But this is yet another Hollywood movie that makes the CIA come across as evil, and that produces a predictably negative review by the conservative New York Post critic Kyle Smith. “Even before the scene in which good guy straddles villain and barks, ‘Who do you work for?’ the movie succeeds extravagantly in its main goal, which is to be as average as possible,” he writes. “The ending, idiotic as it is, is also worth seeing, mainly because the subtext reveals so much about Hollywood’s upside-down thinking. Yes, this is a community that actually considers Julian Assange a hero.”