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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Antonio Banderas Gives SECURITY Some Gravitas

The "Weathered Old Man Reclaiming His Masculinity" action genre has proven to be one of the more surprisingly durable trends of the last few years as many of the talented male leads of the 90s have aged out of their traditional roles. I doubt the makers of Taken knew that the trend they were restarting would last years, would outlast their own surprise franchise, and yet here we are. 2017 saw the genre reach what will likely be the high artistic watermark of its modern incarnation with Logan, the surprisingly mournful send-off for the Wolverine franchise, but most films in the genre have been... well, awful, to put it politely. From Tak3n's gibberish action to the dull bloat of the Expendables movies, the genre is reasonably popular but undeniably struggling. But fans of the genre looking for something considerably lighter than Logan's elegiac tone still have at least one 2017 winner to check out: Security.

In Security, Antonio Banderas plays Eddie Deacon, a veteran struggling to readjust and desperate for work. He agrees to take a job as an overnight security guard at a mall, but when a young girl shows up in the middle of the night, begging for help, he breaks the rules and lets her in. She's pursued by Charlie (Ben Kingsley), a mysterious but brutal gang leader seeking to capture the girl. Eddie refuses to let him in, and is forced to lead the mall's other overnight guards in fending off a midnight massacre in their mall. It's Assault on Precinct 13 in a mall, and while it lacks the casual brutality or the cops and crooks team-up of Assault, it's still a solid siege movie.

Security strikes something of an odd tone at times. Banderas' character is in some ways surprisingly grounded, his pain early in the film almost palpable. He's a man of honor coasting through a world to which he's struggling to readjust. But the other security guards are an almost comedic group, from goofy post-frat-bro Vance (Liam McIntyre) to silent bad-ass Ruby (Gabriella Wright). And Kingsley's gangleader is a scenery chewing pulp monster, a calm and collected murderer and player without a semblance of remorse; his gang is even more colorful, at times seeming ported in from a more adventurous action movie like The Raid. His axe-wielding flunky has a particularly fun sequence, though . The intersection between earnest gravitas, simple comedy, and broad pulp doesn't always entirely work, but when it does, it gives Security something extra to stand on its own. 

A large part of the reason the movie works is because, despite the less-than-clean action and some uninspired use of the mall location, is - surprisingly - the character work. Security gets us on Banderas' side immediately. Banderas gives what begins as a surprisingly muted performance - there's no "I have a particular set of skills" chest-thumping in this one - as a good dude struggling to readjust to civilian life after years in the military, and that's something the script manages to get across in a few short scenes. Eddie Deacon is not a proud man, but he's not an anti-hero; he genuinely comes across as a relatively normal guy trying desperately to do the right thing, and that's a rarity in this kind of film. He's more John McClane than Bryan... Taken? Bryan Takesman? Whatever, Liam Neeson.

The film's action also helps set it apart, though not always in a good way. Security largely eschews the brutal violence of Liam Neeson or Hugh Jackman by handcuffing Banderas from the get-go. He has no weapons, and his enemies largely travel in packs. Instead, he has to adapt to the mall, turning sections of the movie into a weird, bloody Home Alone -- albeit a Home Alone with surprisingly real emotional consequences. It reminded me at times of You're Next, the brilliant 2011 home invasion horror film that found an unlikely hero in the midst of a horrifying scenario. But Security lacks the cleanliness of You're Next, particularly when it comes to the action. You're Next, as a horror film, could set up some gruesome, heart-wrenching twists and moments of incredibly visceral violence, while Security largely sticks with bog standard action beats. The scenarios of those beats are varied, the characters within the scenarios are often solid, but the actual filming of the action is too close-shot and choppy to really land with the impact they need to.

Security is, in a lot of ways, a mish-mash of a lot of things that just shouldn't work together, but combined, it's an entertaining and appealing - if undeniably slight - action movie. Banderas has always been a strong, personable screen presence, and in a way, he's doing the reverse of what Neeson did in Taken: There, Neeson dialed back the depth of those expressive eyes, while Banderas actually amps his soulfulness up considerably. This isn't the charming, roguish Banderas of some of his more famous roles, but it feels like a surprisingly earnest attempt at a more mature action role. Security has its fair share of problems, from choppy action to some occasionally bizarre tonal leaps, but ultimately, Antonio Banderas remains a compelling, charismatic leading man, and he can bring a lot to even a fairly slight film.

Security is out now for rent on streaming services like Amazon Video. Written by Tony Mosher and John Sullivan and directed by Alain Desrochers, Security stars Antonio Banderas and Ben Kingsley.
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