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I’m not a film aficionado. The fact that John Wick didn’t win an Oscar was scandalous. But last night, tired, sore, and frustrated (reasons for which will be in my next Group Writing submission, I think on November 5), I needed an excuse to drink as much as I required to be able to get some sleep. I fired up Netflix and hit whatever came up first in the “we recommend for you” category.
The movie was Security, it was outstanding. Classic scrappy, outgunned underdogs fight to keep the MacGuffin away from totally well-trained, well-equipped, thoroughly evil antagonists. A great set up for any storyline. As I’ve read and believed repeatedly, all good stories are basically conservative. So I got ready to watch a rote, pro forma guns ‘n’ explosive fireballs movie. Security was that, and much, much more.
“C’mon, it’s a shoot ’em up, how great could it be?” asks the philistine who thinks it fitting that John Wick didn’t win an Academy Award. They did three things making this movie that put it over the top.
First, they did a great job with the raw material that Antonio Banderas brings to the table. Banderas plays a former Special Operator/International Man of Mystery who has fallen on hard times and will take any job, even a minimum wage rent-a-cop job (I know, Ricochetti are shocked, shocked that I’d find this storyline compelling). But they did something brilliant: Instead of playing the high-strung pretty boy that gave Banderas his stardom (see Desperado or Assassins), they took the same power but changed the frequency. Banderas’ frequency is dropped so low, the brother is broadcasting on earth waves.
He does extraordinarily well as the beat-down father, frustrated that he cannot provide for his family, and is dealing with his own demons. He also portrays a guy that needs to work. Given the skills that he evinces as the plot progresses, there are plenty of ways he could make money, most of them illegal. He needs money, but he needs to work for it.
Second, the relationship between Banderas and the MacGuffin is sound and appealing. It’s hard to play that trope right, without going straight to cliche. They do it well. Pinky swear.
Finally, the mall Banderas is securing has a night crew of five. They are typically diverse with the smart-aleck Asian, the strung out white/latina/Italian chick, the self-important, glib, self-impressed white kid crew boss, and the anxiety-ridden white dude that is too smart/good/well-bred for the job; it’s an interim stopgap.
Great, I thought. They just crammed 19 stereotypes and jammed them into a five-man crew. Watching this is going to be such a slog. It’s not. It’s friggin’ awesome. They did it right, though. (I keep saying “they” because I don’t know from directors, writers, or producers; if I had any idea what I was talking about, I’d be swanning around in an ascot, like @titustechera.) They let your brain fill in the blanks on the obvious stereotypes they’ve presented, and then let the American nature of the characters blow all those stereotypes apart.
Want to know why Americans form a human chain to rescue a family in a car trapped in floodwaters? Want to know why Americans drop everything to haul their flat boats down to Houston and help out? Ye can’t know. It’s that indescribable, totally awesome aspect of the American character that impels people to perform these incredibly heroic acts.
Want to know why a ragtag group of unarmed, ill-trained rent-a-cops would stand against a slick, hyper-violent Big Bad* to protect a wee, innocent MacGuffin? Ye can’t know. But you can watch, and it’s well worth your time.
If you might be inclined or swayed to watch this movie, don’t watch the trailer. Wrong vibe, wrong perspective.
*Ben Kingsley plays the leader of the Big Bad, so if your internal radar is going off saying “Mongo’s taste sucks! He thought John Wick should get an Academy Award,” stick that in your pipe and smoke it.