Weston (Reynolds), a young CIA agent, wiles away his time looking after an empty safe house in Capetown, South Africa. Desperate for any way to prove himself, he’s left flat-footed when the CIA’s most wanted man, Tobin Frost (Washington), is apprehended and interrogated at the safe house. Formerly the CIA’s best agent, Frost is tortured before a gang of mercenaries show up and proceeds to kill everyone in sight. Weston manages to escape with Frost and finds himself trying to stay a step ahead of both the gang, who are intent on killing him and capturing Frost, as well as Frost himself, who will do whatever it takes to slip away from them both. Frost’s influence causes Weston to question his choice of career, his mentors, the integrity of the CIA and the extent he’s prepared to go to in order to advance his career.

Safe House is worth it just to see Weston’s naiveté being crushed. It would be heartbreaking if it wasn’t so pathetic. His degree of innocence is acceptable in a child, maybe in an idealistic college student, but not for somebody who actually works for the CIA. This flaw isn’t of Reynolds’ doing yet it overshadows his performance nonetheless.

Frost represents an example of a path that Weston’s life could take if he makes certain choices. Like Weston, he was an idealistic agent. He, however, went rogue when he discovered the hypocrites and traitors in the ranks of the CIA. Reeling from the shock, he decided to switch careers and start dealing in top secret data, getting in deep with the underworld. When he comes into the possession of a particularly volatile piece of information, he finds himself being pursued incessantly which leads him to give himself up to the American consulate who at the very least, won’t kill him on sight.

Reynolds and Washington play off of each other decently enough. Reynolds really sells the whole newbie-out-to-prove-himself aspect while also showing the fact that even though he’s in way over his head, he can’t shove aside the issues of morality that keep cropping up. Washington, on the other hand, plays Frost as an exceptionally unpredictable force. His ambiguity keeps you guessing whether he’s a hero or a villain.

Safe House manages to keep things reasonably tense and features some pretty cool and exciting car chases, explosion and fights, but when push comes to shove; the film’s average at best. It may have been better had its setting not been so generic. The film is almost entirely set in South Africa yet you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for America.

The antagonists were another squandered opportunity. They’re little more than highly menacing, gun toting, villainous caricatures. Spending a couple of minutes with them and getting to know them would have given the movie some much needed depth and would have raised the stakes somewhat.

Safe House has everything going for it. It has good actors, a decent script and solid talent behind the camera. Unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed in standing out from the pack and ends up getting lost in the shuffle of action movies that are cranked out every month.