Denzel Washington plays one badass sociopath, murderer, traitor and still manages to steal screen time from all of those around him and be charming to boot. This includes Ryan Reynolds (Matt Weston) whose character is along for the ride and a backdrop for Tobin Frost's (Washington's) driving escape from the CIA. Julian Assange anyone? (Not that we know if Assange is guilty whereas we know Frost is.) The script by David Guggenheim is one dimensional in that the film is about Frost's running from the CIA and Weston who is the "housekeeper" of a safe house, who is meant to guard him. Frenzy is what this movie is really about.
More precisely it is about secrets of the CIA that are on micro chips that Frost has acquired illegally. He will sell these chips to the highest bidder and blow the lily white lid off the CIA. Alas one murder ensues.
The CIA is headed by Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard), who reminds me of Dick Cheney. Whitford is smooth, cunning and hides his involvement in this intrigue from everyone. Captivating as only Sam Shepard can be, he is assisted by Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) who is her dynamic self. David Barlow (Brendon Gleeson) is robust skillful presence and rounds out the star cast of the CIA. Acting is not the problem of this film.
The plot is simple: Frost is on the run from the CIA with his micro chip and gets caught and put in a Safe House in South Africa. The "housekeeper" is Weston, a newbie in the CIA and has Billy Budd written all over him. After Frost is water boarded to no avail and is about to be cut with a knife, thugs break into the Safe House and murder everyone save Frost and Weston who escape in a getaway car after Weston throws Frost in the trunk.
Eventually this becomes a buddy film as the two become allies -- a bit reminiscent of the Hope/Crosby Road films only with violence thrown in the mix. Catherine Linklater thinks Weston has turned. Her realization of this possibility could be the highlight of the film. When she confronts Barlow with this concept, all hell breaks loose. And everyone runs on.
The sound is at times overbearing, but effective. The cinematography and visual effects are excellent with beautiful shots of Cape Town and South Africa. Daniel Espinoza's direction builds the momentum slowly and intently if not at times heavy handed.
If the idea of seeing two not quite Nuns on the Run appeals to you, run to this film. Otherwise walk.
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