Safe House, the new Denzel Washington action flick, tries a neat trick. It begins as an action movie where shots are fired, cars chased, punches thrown and necks snapped and we as the audience have no idea why. I thought for a little stretch Safe House might be the first action movie in a while that gets it, that people don’t buy tickets to see these movies for their disposable plots, we simply want the adrenaline from one car smashing into another. We want the visceral thrill from a punch shattering a villain”s skull. We want the retribution from our hero’s bullets always hitting his target at maximum impact. What we don’t want is too much information about the wife that has to be saved, the nuclear bomb that needs to be defused, or the longtime friend who secretly turns out to be a bitter enemy. These details just get in the way.
For ninety percent of its running time Safe House understands this as it goes from one thrilling action scene to another, but it can’t help itself from trying to deliver quiet emotional moments between Denzel and Ryan Reynolds. Fortunately my ears were still ringing from all the explosions so I couldn’t hear their silly dialogue about how the CIA makes it so you can’t have a solid relationship.
Action movies should be all blood and muscle. In that case Safe House is a bodybuilder with massive pecs and biceps, but a bit of a beer gut.
The one time Mr. Universe of genre filmmaking, David Cronenberg’s last two action movies, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, cut out the crap. Backstories and plots were secondary to intense fight scenes. So as if to make up for it, his new movie, A Dangerous Method, tries to cover as intellectual a subject as possible, a period piece about the friendship between the psychiatrists, Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung.
The movie starts off riveting with Keira Knightley hamming it up as a madwoman with a brutal underbite that she uses to demonstrate her insanity. Through the experimental form of psychoanalysis, Karl Jung cures her of her underbite and her madness while simultaneously getting turned on by her. Freud as Jung”s superego disapproves of having sex with a patient. This is one of the few movies out there where you will feel smarter after having watched it. It is rare for a movie to present an exchange of ideas, but A Dangerous Method suffers from trying to cover too much of a time span. Just as you become interested in the friction between Freud and Jung, the movie lapses to a year or two later.
Guess I’ll have to read a book if I want to learn more about Freud or Jung, but maybe in the sequel, A Danerous Method 2, we can see a bare knuckle, cocaine infused balls to the wall brawl between them.