The Company You Keep

Safe House, a slick CIA story by the Swiss/Chilean director Daniel Espinosa, is a dangerous ride down the duplicitous territory of international espionage and internal regret. With a plot that pits a jaded ex-operative against a green government goon, this fast-paced flick set in South Africa is a bloody “bromance,” replete with broken glass and handcuffs, that at times seems like a cross between Point Break and Breaking Bad---sans the surfboards and with a prettier location if not necessarily prettier people.

The always charming Denzel Washington (who else could ever look so good being water-boarded?) plays a big man with bigger secrets. Within his mind he carries contempt for the corruption of the government he has killed innocent men for; within his body he carries a microchip that could reveal to the world a web of top level lies that connect nefarious cohorts from Israel to Ireland.

Safe House, the first English-language thriller by a director who has hitherto worked mostly in Denmark, is more than a movie about “the company.” With its emphasis on rectifying injustice amid the lives of people who lie for a living, this movie is about being good---or being good to your word---to the company you keep.

Mi Casa es su Casa

Okay, forget the absolute Hollywood hubris of a gringo like Will Ferrell doing an entire movie in Spanish. Forget the plot too, about two brothers in love with the same woman (the ravishing Genesis Rodriguez, no less) and forget the telenovela storyline about escalating drug wars and the way escalating drug thugs might threaten each other with hands full of dirt poured slowly over white suits in dim cantinas. Directed by another gringo, Matt Piedmont, Casa de mi Padre makes heavy use of prosthetic posteriors and even brings back Molly Shannon for a quick cameo (“Mexico is the Bestico!”) It’s one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. And you’re talking to a guy who has watched Raising Arizona and This is Spinal Tap about 60 times each.

Maybe all those Dos Equis commercials have primed me for this implausible spectacle; maybe it’s simply that last year’s Machete got so much mainstream steam. Whatever happened to me before watching this cheeky (you’ll know what I mean about 47 minutes in) new comedy classic, I did not realize how ripe I was for this too funny film.

This is how I hope the film was pitched to studio bosses: “Watch this movie and you will see a coyote-mauled Will Ferrell getting spectral advice from a stuffed white tiger; watch this movie and you will see that Pedro kid from Napoleon Dynamite laugh his ass off about how if he had a beautiful woman he would never leave his bed; watch this movie and you will see a man slowly eat a sandwich in the reflection of some drug cop’s Ray-Bans.”

I’ve read some of the reviews and I can tell you that I think people are being snobs about this movie---and worse, people that probably watch The Three Amigos whenever it comes on.


By Robert Ontiveros