Showtime's Safe House -- starring Patrick
Stewart as Mace Sowell, an aging recluse who may have the goods on a presidential
candidate -- needs some remodeling in order to become the psychological thriller that it
purports to be.
The producers seem divided on how to present this movie.
It's a drama that's sometimes jarred by jaunty music and awkward attempts at
humor, such as when Mace's pool man, Stuart (Craig Shoemaker), does lame impressions
of Humprey Bogart, Robert De Niro and Jimmy Stewart.
And their surprise "drills," during which they
trash the house, are almost comedic, resembling the battles that Inspector Clouseau and
his valet had in those Pink Panther flicks.
It's a thriller that gets bogged down in dull segments
exploring whether Mace is losing ground to Alzheimer's disease.
And it's a battle of wits, although the movie offers
detailed looks at how Mace has turned his home into a high-security fortress, but only
fleeting hints as to what the supposed threat is.
Safe House is basically a two-person vehicle, with
Stewart's role far more dominant than Kimberly Williams' portrayal of his latest
caregiver, Andi, a "Mary Poppins" in her late 20s.
Stewart acquits himself well, once we forget him as Star
Trek's Capt. Picard. Still, it's a bit unsettling to hear that authoritative
voice telling Andi, "Don't forget the bonus-buy coupons!"
Through most of the drama, we're unsure whether Mace
is in fact growing senile or whether, as Henry Kissinger once observed, "Even a
paranoid can have enemies."
As for Mace, despite newscast clips reporting that Admiral
Michelmore is becoming an increasingly strong presidential prospect, and that all of their
fellow "black operations" comrades are being slain one by one, the recluse
inexplicably intends to hang onto incriminating computer files until his dying breath.
Along the way, there are some red herrings and a dream
sequence, all of which are irritating once we realize that we've been used. Suddenly,
in the last half-hour or so, the drama's tempo picks up -- as if the producers
realized the end was nigh. Consequently, the key characters undergo unbelievable changes.
Safe House was directed by Eric Steven Stahl,
who also wrote the original story and screenplay with John Schalter and Sean McLain; Stahl
and McLain are its producers, as well.
Showtime will run Safe House Jan. 24 at 8 p.m., with
a repeat Jan. 28.