Monday Morning Quarterback Part I

By BOP Staff

February 13, 2012

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Denzel *almost* beats romance. Or maybe Ryan Reynolds' abs *almost* beat Channing Tatum's.

Kim Hollis: Safe House became the second most successful debut in the long and storied career of Denzel Washington as it opened to $40.2 million. Why do you believe this film did better than what we've come to expect from the remarkably consistent actor?

Bruce Hall: It could be that this would appear to most casual moviegoers to be the first fully credible action drama of the year. That's said with apologies to Liam Neeson and The Grey, which to me was more of a grim psychological thriller. Meanwhile, Safe House is a popcorn munching, paint by numbers, spy versus spy chase movie peppered with standard issue macho talk about "rogue agents" and "following protocol." It delivers what it promises, and Denzel provides the grit and gravitas he's famous for. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds provides the same unobjectionable, warm-bowl-of-oatmeal serviceability that keeps Chris O'Donnell employed to this day. I think this was a combination of audiences being very ready for a film like this at this time, a lack of any real genre competition, the fact that Denzel Washington is a known quality, and the fact that a lot of people mistake Ryan Reynolds for Ryan Gosling. Nothing is ever a guarantee, but this wasn't rocket science. Just a well executed game plan from conception to casting to promotion to rollout. And it's a solid win for Universal, who had a very up and down 2011 and started off 2012 with a whale of a disappointment.

Now, I'm going to sit here with my hand out, waiting for my Bad Pun of the Week award.


Brett Beach: Four theories:

1) Apparently using Kanye West songs in your advertising is the route to an unexpectedly large opening (The Social Network, Jarhead, and now this).

2) Denzel Washington is as trusted in the action milieu (whether playing good or bad, although audiences do seem to prefer him menacing after he's been the good guy for a while) as Adam Sandler is in the comedy world and both have been meeting audience expectations for nearly two decades, with very few commercial disappointments and only the tiniest of blips disaster-wise (Fallen, Little Nicky). The trailer made the film look at least slightly original and compelling.

3) Ryan Reynolds isn't as consistent but likable as well and a project like this where he is paired with a veteran A-lister made for a slightly higher level of excitement.

4) The tradeoff among couples was - we go see The Vow tonight, we see Safe House tomorrow night. Although to be honest, it was probably a win win for all involved.

Edwin Davies: Safe House seems to be using the same play as Unstoppable, the (surprisingly awesome) Denzel-Chris Pine runaway train movie from 2010. Both used the young guy-old guy dynamic to create easily packaged tension, but Safe House had the added spice of having Denzel play a shady character after a run of playing nice guys. People like to see him playing someone charming but dubious (see: American Gangster, Training Day) since he gets to exert his considerable charm and charisma without having to get bogged down in being the stoic, boring hero. It's a character type that he hasn't played for a while, and I think that made the film look more interesting as a result.

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