Denzel Washington is at the stage in his career, that he can be picky about his roles. That comes with having won two Oscars and nominated a total of five times. But like most actors of his experience, it's often more entertaining to see what roles they try rather than the quality of the film itself.


For example, Robert DeNiro was always a mob/tough guy before Martin Scorsese cast him in "The King of Comedy" where he play a stand-up comedian. Denzel, in his earlier years played powerful, but generally goody-goody roles until "Training Day"; a role which won him that second Oscar. Now, it seems he has embraced the tough guy role as Tobin Frost in his latest film ""Safe House".


As in "Training Day" he is paired with a naive newbie in CIA agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who gives a similar golly-gee-wow performance that Ethan Hawk did. Only this time, he's not his partner; he's the guy who's supposed to bring him in.

The film opens with Tobin Frost (Washington), already a declared rogue ex-CIA agent, getting a digital file from another agent who immediately gets whacked. A SWAT team pursues Frost until he finally escapes to the custody of the American consulate which immediately turns him over to the CIA.


Catherine Linklater (Vera Farminga), a high ranking muck-a-muck with the agency is happy to have him in custody, but wonders why he turned himself in after all these years. However, bureau boss Daniel Kiefer (Robert Patrick) and others can't wait to get info out of him through waterboarding.


Frost is moved to a CIA safehouse that is under the watch of fairly new agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) who is looking forward to earning his way to being a field agent. While at the safehouse, Frost is tortured with no success. It is during the torture that same team that chased Frost earlier, attacks the safehouse killing all the CIA agents except Frost and Weston - who escape.


Now the film becomes that good cop/bad cop buddy picture like "Training Day" with Frost schooling Westin on who is behind the chase. He also informs Weston that he should probably dump his girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) for her own good. Yes, there is a love story crammed in the middle of all the killing.


All the while, CIA headquarters scrambles to figure out who is behind the attacks and questions the abilities of Weston. However, his mentor Dave Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) vouches for him though Linklater casts serious doubts and considers him also suspect.


The rest of the film is very predictable, but full of action. Denzel Washington channels the hard action he used in "Book of Eli" to several encounters with swarms of foes.

This is little known director Daniel Espinosa's first film with big talent and, he handles the talent well though he chose the grainy, fuzzy camera effects that became rather annoying. Brendan Gleeson, once again shows his versatility after a comic turn in "The Guard". But Vera Farminga is hardly recognizable buried under a trench coat for most of her appearance.


But again, the biggest drawback of the film is it's predictability; it covers absolute;y no new territory as a narrative and only serves as a vehicle for Washington as action guy.


"Safe House" is full of action and well paced. If you can believe Denzel Washington can do all the things he does in the film, then I've got some beachfront property in Iran to sell you. You can't help but feel that he's positioning himself for another great role, but you'll have to take this instead.   -- GEOFF BURTON