Protecting a life will mean taking one.
If you’re a burnt-out hermit living pathetic solitary existence in a ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere, what is the best way to snap yourself out of your stupor? If you said “Desperately defend a young girl against a rampaging assassin using only a shotgun with one remaining shell,” then you nailed it.
Said hermit is Carter (Thomas Jane, The Punisher), a war veteran who’s endured some past family trauma, forcing him to retreat into his hovel and, naturally, grow out his hair until it’s long and filthy.
His word is smacked around when a little girly arrives at his doorstep pleading for help. She had just witness an execution in a nearby cemetery and the murderer is hot on her heels. The two hunker down just as Sade (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix), the trigger-man shows up, guns blazing.
And that’s the set-up for your movie, a tight-quarters suspense-actioner, where the hero must plot, plan and scheme around his firepower deficiency while keeping up an ongoing dialogue with the villain before he catches on.
Standoff is a cat-and-mouse game except the cat and mouse are confined to a stairwell. From up top, Carter stands guard with his shotgun, exchanging trash talk with Sade, who’s on the first floor firing right back.
It’s a unique approach to a suspense movie, but it feels a bit gimmicky. Writer/director Adam Alleca does his best to weave in some speed-bumps to shake up the confines (of his own creation, natch) and these narrative twists aren’t bad — but I still felt myself sitting restless, waiting for it all to just resolve.
It’s not the fault of Thomas Jane or Laurence Fishburne. Both are suitably engaged in the proceeds, diving into their characters and milking each scene. They don’t seem to be just clocking in the for the paycheck. Jane as the erstwhile scrub-turned-hero has the obvious story beats of redemption and sacrifice and purpose to wrangle with and he does so suitably. It’s Fishburne who has a steeper hill to climb. How do you make what is essentially the character of The Terminator interesting? He does, injecting Sade with enough style and malevolence to keep him from getting stale.
And in the end, that’s my final take on Standoff: it’s not stale. It’s not a thrill ride and the conceit wore on me towards the end, but I wasn’t bored and the performances and plot disruptions were enough to keep me going. Ringing endorsement, I know.
Lions gate’s Standoff (Blu-ray) offers up a 2.39:1/1080p HD transfer, DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, a making-of featurette, and a digital copy.
Not Guilty. Now, where can I go to get some air?