There's a technique used by visual artists called kinetic photography, in which a camera is tossed into the air or otherwise physically abused in hopes of capturing a distinctive image. While I don't personally know any kinetic photographers, I imagine myself intimately acquainted with the process whenever a movie like Safe House crosses my path — not that many have. Ostensibly a blockbuster action-thriller starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, Safe House plays more like a student film on steroids. The camera constantly stutters and swirls, and odd angles flash across the screen in a fraction of a second. The entire movie is intentionally overexposed, presumably to make it look cool. Can't we just let Denzel kick some butt?
Apparently not, but the movie's wayward camera work is not the only culprit. The frantic rush of images fails to hide an equally fragmented and surprisingly empty story. Reynolds plays a wet-behind-the-ears "housekeeper" at a hidden CIA facility, where operatives waterboard even compliant captives. Washington is the legendary former agent who long ago went rogue but has just turned himself in for private reasons. They wind up on the run together from bad guys who seem to anticipate their every move. Is it all an inside job? Of course it is, but the movie only breaks for plot briefly between violent confrontations and implausible car chases. Did I mention the hip visuals? —KEN KORMAN
Safe House (R)
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds