"Apparently Christopher Guest Doesn't Own the Rights to Good Improv"
SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: Security guards have a great tradition in the movies. Well, not a great tradition unless Armed & Dangerous sits firmly on your DVD shelf, but an easy target for comedy. They’re not really cops but get thrown into wacky adventures that no rent-a-cop would ever be a part of. Someone’s either a disgraced cop or takes their job far more seriously than they would ever need to. Brien Burroughs’ “Security” takes advantage of all those elements yet somehow dispels all the usual phony machinations of your C-level screenwriter with the entire film being improvised.During the opening credits, I thought I had simply missed the writing credit and didn’t give it a second thought until the final title card telling me that all the actors went off-the-cuff. Stephen Kearin and Tim Orr play Pat Sullivan and Bill Lillehammer, a pair of wanker guards working night shift at the chocolate factory. Their constant bouts of staring are perked up never out of a necessity to spice up their jobs, but because they take absolute pride in the minute details. Every report box is filled, every nook-and-cranny inspected. If there’s an unauthorized electrician or bug sprayer in the building – watch out!
Pat is the take-charge half of the duo who never fails to suppress the guilt of his meeker partner when he forgets to write down the exact time of the last person to sign-in. Constantly harassed by the day crew during shift changes, the Bert-and-Ernie-like duo get a chance to show their stuff when candy prototypes go missing. Between diagrams and witness interrogations, cracking the case may not be too hard for us in the audience but is difficult when your position in life is considered to be a worthless one.
Don’t let the weight of those words fool you into thinking this is some reflection on the everyday grind of these thankless officers. While we’re naturally inclined to laugh AT them as slow-moving, occasionally non-sleeping hindrances, laughing at them in Security is a pleasurable experience with an unexpected emotional closure. Those expecting laugh-a-minute dynamics in the nature of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” when the word “improv” is suggested, may be more apt to notice the slow passages in-between the punchlines. But what is a punchline without a well-placed setup?
While a cult audience embraced last year’s fest favorite, Super Troopers, Security delivers twice the laughs with half the people. Broken Lizard come off like amateurs compared to the unexpected timing and unflinching characterizations of the two leads here. When Kearin has his game-face on (which is the length of the movie), a few throwaway lines lead into moments of serious laughter. Orr breathes a lot of life into the straight man part and develops his meekness into a sweet subplot with an equally mousy office temp (Regina Saisi).Security will never have the polished look of a Super Troopers or the wretched Martin Lawrence vehicle that uses “National” as an adjective. National is a word films like Security may never see, but deserves to. Improvising an entire piece at Second City can take years of training. Pulling it off at feature-length like This is Spinal Tap takes guts and precision and patience. Even if Security is destined to play the midnight circuit at theaters around the country or find a Johnny-come-lately audience on DVD, its presence will be a most welcome one to anyone with a sense-of-humor and enough room in your heart for a perceived pair of losers who don’t want to be.