A rogue agent in Cape Town

2012-02-13 00:00

IF it weren’t for the fact that Safe House was filmed and based in Cape Town, would the action thriller measure up to others of its kind in Hollywood? The answer is yes. It might not be in the groundbreaking league of The Bourne Identity, but it’s a chance to see Ryan Reynolds raise his game alongside the effortless professionalism of Denzel Washington.

For South Africans the film is good for a few unintended laughs. Washington runs circles around the SA Police Service in a shoot-out sequence at Greenpoint Stadium. Woodstock is the setting for a riotous car chase, and Gugulethu shacks are demolished as Washington tries to outrun his pursuers along the rooftops (they keep falling through the ceilings). For anyone else though, it hardly looks the majestic place as locals know it — we can only suspect that SA Tourism won’t be using this movie as a promotional vehicle.

Why Cape Town? It’s an answer which is elusive in the film (draw your own conclusions about the proposed secrecy bill and the presence of spies in the country). But it’s the U.S. Consulate that Tobin Frost (Washington), walks into. Frost, a former elite agent who went rogue a decade ago and has been in hiding since, unexpectedly walks in and has everyone guessing. He’s known within the agency as a traitor by his former employees, but his name is legendary.

He is transferred to a safe house for interrogation. A hit squad pursuing him locates the safe house and slaughters everyone there except Frost and untried agent Matt Weston (Reynolds), who survive the massacre and go on the run. The CIA gives Weston orders about where to go, but it turns out the good guys are actually the bad guys and vice versa.

The major flaw in the film is that Washington and his character are not given more focus. He looks like he’s hardly breaking a sweat, and the underdeveloped character of Frost could be far more intriguing. Still, there’s little that can divert attention when he’s the focus. Reynolds’s performance is a diversion from the wisecracking silliness that has dominated his career thus far.

Nevertheless, it’s a rollicking ride, less talky and more explosive. In the unlikely event that you’re bored, it’s fun spotting Mzansi locations. ****

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