REVIEW: Security (2017)

Antonio Banderas falls ever further into DTV land with this Die Hard-esque action thriller. But is it better than you’d assume? Cal gives it a chance. 

A modestly-budgeted, old-fashioned R-rated actioner with a Die Hard-esque narrative, Security gets enough right to justify a recommendation for movie-goers who enjoy genre flicks from the 80s and 90s. It’s basically Die Hard meets Assault on Precinct 13 in a shopping mall (shades of Dawn of the Dead?), and it is overly predictable, but director Alain Desrochers compensates for the picture’s formulaic construction by infusing the material with zest and verve. Created for a meagre $15 million, Security is more purely enjoyable than any number of blockbusters that cost three or four times as much, and it’s a nice alternative in an age where big-budget superhero films rule the box office on a consistent basis. In addition, Security is more than just another cheap, nasty direct-to-video action flick; it is surprisingly well-made and deserves more fanfare than it received.

A U.S. Military veteran who attained the rank of Captain, Eddie Deacon (Antonio Banderas) is desperate for employment. Despite being overqualified for minimum wage jobs, Eddie eagerly accepts a lowly position as a mall security guard in a rough neighbourhood to pay the bills and potentially allow him to reunite with his wife and daughter. Meeting shift supervisor Vance (Liam McIntyre) and the three other guards on shift, the night soon takes a turn for the worst when a teenage girl named Jamie (Katherine Mary de la Rocha) pounds on the door, pleading for protection. Not far behind is a team of armed mercenaries led by Charlie (Ben Kingsley), who seek to eliminate Jamie before she can testify at trial. Choosing to put his life on the line to protect Jamie, Eddie takes charge, whipping his fellow security officers in shape as they set up makeshift defences with whatever supplies they can find.

The screenplay by Tony Mosher (Mechanic: Resurrection) and John Sullivan (Recoil) is almost defiantly uncomplicated, eschewing subplots and drama to focus on action and narrative velocity. The idea is introduced that one of the security guards might betray Eddie for the sake of money or wanting to save their own bacon, but it’s not followed through, which does feel like a case of Chekov’s Gun failing to go off. In addition, clichés fly thick and fast, with Eddie depicted as a salt-of-the-earth, hard-working veteran who was dealt a rough hand, while Charlie is out-and-out evil. Do not expect any emotional resonance or thematic underpinnings either, and of course, the movie is silly at times – characters rarely reload or seem to run out of ammo, people do contrived things which gets them killed, certain timings are very convenient, and so on. Still, pacing is assured (Security runs a lean 88 minutes), and there are a few tense scenes, such as when Charlie first meets the security staff face-to-face and Eddie suspects that not everything is as it seems.

Director Desrochers does not have any substantial credits on his résumé, but he acquits himself commendably with the material, making the most of the reported budget. Without any noticeable or phoney-looking CGI to spoil the old-school vibe, Desrochers relies on stunt-work, actual fire, practical blood squibs and blank-firing weapons, making Security feel like a lost gem from the early 90s. (It is a bit of a shame that it was shot digitally, rather than on film.) Action scenes are brutal, visceral and taut, while Banderas proves that he is still an adept physical performer even though he’s in his fifties. However, the central mall lacks visual appeal and creativity. Whereas the high-rise Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard became its own distinctive character, the mall here simply looks like a soundstage, basic and generic, lacking its own identity. The security office is admittedly nicely-designed, but the rest looks hopelessly bland, which is the only aspect of the production where the restricted budget is apparent. However, Desrochers at least does a sufficient job of masking the fact that the flick was shot in Bulgaria.

Working to redeem himself after his atrociously cartoonish and grating performance in 2014’s The Expendables 3, Banderas is down-to-earth as the John McClane type, coming across as human whilst also emerging as a believable action hero. Banderas has become somewhat of a low-budget action luminary – I mean, in 2017 alone he featured in Acts of VengeanceGun Shy and Bullet Head, as well as Security – and he plays this type of role well. He certainly puts more effort into his movies than Steven Seagal. Meanwhile, Kingsley does what he can with what amounts to a bog-standard villain role, coming across as sinister enough even though he does overact. As young Jamie, the inexperienced Rocha noticeably struggles from time to time – she makes a fair few of her lines sound scripted, as if she was reading them from a cue card. It’s not always a big issue, but she isn’t as natural as the remainder of the cast. Luckily, Eddie’s co-workers are believable and naturalistic for the most part, and ensure that they can be told apart from one another, though none of them exactly stand out.

Security doesn’t reinvent the genre, nor does it try to do anything groundbreaking – the movie is content to be an entertaining if predictable collection of clichés. Perhaps mercifully, Desrochers never attempts any over-the-top set-pieces or moments that would be beyond the constraints of the budget – action scenes are athletic but grounded, and the climactic showdown amounts to a nail-biting mano a mano confrontation that’s effective without being lathered in extensive digital effects. (Even if the moment itself is a blatant Die Hard rip-off.) Despite its silly moments and instances of shonky acting, Security delivers what it promises on the tin – it’s an undemanding old-school pizza and beer flick, in the same vein as something like The Last Stand or The Expendables.

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