The Denzel Washington Spy Thriller On Netflix That Deserves A Franchise

By Zack Zagranis | Published

safe house

As great as The Equalizer is, it’s not the only Denzel Washington action movie that deserves to get a franchise. Safe House, an underrated thriller from 2012, is just aching for a follow-up. You can stream the film right now on Netflix and see if you agree.

Safe House, starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, is streaming on Netflix.

Safe House follows a wet-behind-the-ears CIA operative, Matt Weston played by Ryan Reynolds, who’s tasked with maintaining a CIA safehouse in Cape Town, South Africa. The inexperienced Weston is soon forced to undergo some unwanted on-the-job training courtesy of ex-CIA operative turned criminal Tobin Frost, played by acting legend Denzel Washington.

When Frost is brought to Weston’s safe house after obtaining a data storage McGuffin, the two are forced to deal with a gang of mercenaries who are after the device.

The movie was written by David Guggenheim, the writer behind The Christmas Chronicles, parts One and Two. Safe House was Guggenheim’s first screenplay and one of two movies credited to the writer in 2012. The other Guggenheim-penned film to come out that year was Stolen, another thriller, this time starring Nicolas Cage.

Safe House was directed by Swedish-Chilean director Daniel Espinosa and served as the director’s first English-language production. Actors, Vera Farmiga, Robert Patrick, and Brendan Gleeson round out a solid cast that also includes the above-mentioned A-listers, Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington.

The film was shot on location in Cape Town. Safe House was originally set to shoot in Rio de Janeiro, but due to security concerns, producers made the decision to move the production to South Africa.

safe house
Denzel Washington in Safe House (2012)

During a scene where Denzel Washington’s character is being waterboarded for information, the Oscar Winner was accidentally waterboarded for real. Thankfully, the torture only lasted for a few seconds, but as anyone who has ever been waterboarded can tell you, even a few seconds of the questionable interrogation technique is (presumably) a few seconds too long. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the only pain Washington would face on the set of Safe House.

Safe House was only the second film of 2012 to gross over $100 million at the domestic box office.

During a scene where Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington wrestle for control of a speeding car, Reynolds’ head accidentally smashed into Denzel’s face, causing a lump to swell over the actor’s right eye. The scene was reset so that it could be filmed from Washington’s other side, only to have the same thing happen a second time.

With nasty lumps above both eyes, Denzel needed to recuperate for a few days before shooting could commence. According to Ryan Reynolds, the injuries allegedly caused Washington to resemble “an old-fashioned Christmas ornament.” Not all of the behind-the-scenes drama during the production of Safe House was physical either.

At one point, there was a creative disagreement between Espinosa and the producers of Safe House. The artistic differences were bad enough that the producers considered firing the Director until star Denzel Washington intervened.

Thanks to a clause in Washington’s contract that gave the actor approval of the film’s director, Denzel was able to tell the producers that he wanted Espinosa to continue to direct the movie, and “That’s that.”

Unfortunately, Safe House 2 is currently stuck in development limbo and could even possibly be considered officially dead at this point.

Safe House had its premiere in New York City on February 7, 2012. The film opened nationwide a few days later, on February 10. Safe House grossed $208.1 million worldwide on a budget of $85 million, making the movie profitable by any metric.

safe house
Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington in Safe House (2012)

Despite doing well at the box office, Safe House received mostly negative reviews from critics, earning the film a less than impressive 53% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus from critics on the site stated that Safe House‘s stars, Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, were “let down by a thin script and choppily edited action sequences.”

Audiences, for the most part, disagreed with critics on Safe House, as evidenced by the fact that the movie was only the second film of 2012 to gross over $100 million at the domestic box office.

The movie was profitable enough that Universal hired screenwriter David Guggenheim to pen a sequel. Unfortunately, Safe House 2 is currently stuck in development limbo and could even possibly be considered officially dead at this point.

While it may be unlikely for Safe House to get a sequel this late in the game—especially considering both of the movie’s stars have since moved on to other franchises—at least audiences still have the original to watch whenever they get a craving for a fun action-thriller starring two of Hollywood’s biggest actors. Safe House is currently streaming on Netflix.