The Movie: Safe House at the Meridian , 1501 7th>"/>
The Dinner: Pasta and wine at Al Boccalino, 1 Yesler Way, 622-7688, PIONEER SQUARE.
The Screenplate: Do double agents and CIA operatives ever get hungry? Not according to Safe House, where no food is consumed onscreen over the course of a 72-hour span. But Denzel Washington, cast as a masterfully manipulative CIA turncoat named Tobin Frost, makes it clear that he appreciates a nice bottle of wine in a clandestine environment. Which is why if he were in Seattle, he'd dine at Al Boccalino.
As we wrote in November 2010, Boccalino's "owner, Luigi DeNunzio, looks and talks exactly how you'd expect a guy named Luigi to look and talk. With his handlebar mustache, thick Italian accent, and biking pants, you fully expect him to pedal bread, hand-formed meatballs, and fresh cloves of garlic to Marlon Brando's underworld hideout at a nondescript warehouse in SoDo during the downtime between lunch and dinner. " The restaurant is small and rarely overpopulated, and it's got a few tables in back which are fully concealed from the outside world. It's also got a solid wine list, and the sort of pasta a trained killer like Frost would presumably carbo-load on before a melee. DeNunzio, it should be made clear, would not be complicit in any of Frost's underworld dealings. But he wouldn't ask any questions either.
The brilliant lawman led astray is not new turf for Washington, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a crooked cop Alonzo Harris in Training Day. The problem with that Oscar is it was more a lifetime achievement award, versus an acknowledgement of the year's best performance by a leading man. It was a showy role, and showy is easy for an actor of Washington's caliber.
The role of Frost is somewhat showy as well, but the character has more depth than Harris, and Washington is required to unpeel those layers in a far more deliberate manner than in Training Day. Frost also proves more sympathetic than Harris, and Washington's chemistry with a young CIA agent played by Ryan Reynolds evolves as uneasily as it might in real life, rather than the insta-frenemy banter that movies of this ilk so often resort to.
Safe House is full of action, but not surprises. The film ends on an equally implausible and predictable note, but that hardly spoils the experience. Its South African locales are mega-cool, and Vera Farmiga and Sam Shepherd show up amongst a sterling cast of supporting players. All told, Safe House does an impressive job maintaining tension for its full two-hour run time, and offers yet another opportunity for Reynolds to cement his stature as one of America's most versatile leading men.
While he's often dismissed as just another pretty face (so pretty he made an honest woman out of Scarlett Johansson--for a short while, anyway) it's difficult to find a contemporary of Reynolds' who can slide so easily between R-rated comedy, romantic dramedy and action-packed thriller. His talent will likely never be considered in the same class as Washington's, but in Safe House, he holds his own.