Safehouse (2008)

Rating: C+

Dir: John Poague
Star: Johnny Alonso, Carolina Hoyos, Robert Miano, Sheila Cutchlow

Cooper O’Neil (Alonso) thinks he has put his career as an FBI agent behind him, until a dead body turns up by his boat, with a thumb drive in its pocket. Realizing something is up, he hides the drive and he and his business partner, Emily (Hoyos), find himself the focus of attention, both by his ex-colleagues and the arms developer Moffa (Miano) who needs the drive to complete a massive criminal endeavour. When Moffa kidnaps Emily in an effort to force O’Neil to give up the drive, it’s up to him and former partner Samantha (Cutchlow), to storm the enemy’s headquarters and rescue her.

There’s no doubt that this is low-budget, and as such, they might have been better off writing a story based on what they had, rather than creating a script and then trying to produce it within their limitations. For example, the entire resources of the FBI appear to consist of about five people and a mini-van, and “calling for backup” just never seems to happen, even as the dead bodies pile up like a small war. Alonso also looks about fifteen years younger than his actual late thirties: while that’s nice for him, it doesn’t make him the most convincing former field agent [someone like Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice has the right air of world-weary competence]. We also had to cringe at odd moments things like villains dropping their guns so they can go mano-a-mano with the good guys. And if I ever become an Evil Overlord, when a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again. I’m just saying…

That said, I actually didn’t hate this. After a somewhat confusing and near-inaudible opening, that doesn’t seems connected to the rest of the movie, it settles down and delivers a generally entertaining piece of entertainment, bearing in mind its low cost. At only eighty minutes, it doesn’t drag, and if the plot might not stand up to close scrutiny, it moves at such a pace that the holes don’t detract from proceedings. While you need a encyclopaedic knowledge of minor television to recognize any of the names here, the performances are decent enough, and there are nice quirks, like the eccentric hacker to whom Cooper turns for help decrypting the drive. More of that kind of charm might have helped the film be more than the passable low-budget thriller it is.