J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Standoff: Laurence Fishburne Gets Villainous

You haven’t seen a cemetery this isolated since Night of the Living Dead. It makes sense for someone in hiding to hold a memorial service there, but it is curtains for all when a hitman gets the drop on them. The nearest house belongs to Carter Greene, which is sort of convenient, considering he is one the brink of suicide. However, he puts everything on hold when a twelve year-old witness seeks his protection. The combat veteran will dig-in with her for the duration in Adam Alleca’s Standoff (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Poor little orphan Isabel has already had quite a time of it. She still clings to the camera given to her by her deceased father, which will be significant when her aunt’s soon-to-be-late boyfriend takes her to visit her parent’s grave. She does indeed manage to get a snap of the killer at work, sans mask. Somehow she reaches Greene’s house just in time. Still grieving the son who died due to his own negligence, the former soldier was one or two shots away from ending it all. Instead, he gets a flesh wound in the leg from the killer, returning the favor with some twenty gauge buckshot to the waist.

Since they are out in the middle of nowhere, the killer can simply let his siege play out. Greene has the advantage when it comes to relative blood loss, but the killer has an overwhelming ammunition edge. He has a full clip, whereas Greene only has one short-range, wide dispersing shell left. The killer is also better at talking trash, but Greene is surprisingly resourceful—and in need of redemption.

Standoff is a perfectly good reminder that you can’t make a pizza without plenty of cheese. Let’s be honest, Laurence Fishburne’s villainy muscles have atrophied since his career-making performance as Ike Turner. However, he delivers some howlingly ludicrous lines with gusto. You have to give him credit for chewing the scenery like a champ, making Standoff rather watchable. It also leaves Thomas Jane as the strong, silent type, which was surely a relief to him.

To continue giving credit where it is due, Ella Ballentine is also quite good as the ticky and withdrawn Isabel. She comes across as a convincingly messed-up kid, without ever trying the audience’s patience. We never want Greene to kick her down the staircase, which is often the glaring weakness in films like this.

Frankly, Standoff really isn’t that manipulative either. Alleca is much more concerned with the tactics and strategies employed in each skirmish. Of course, there are preposterous plot holes all over the place, but at least everyone came to play. It is a total B-movie, but it is worth a stream when it inevitably turns up on Netflix, which should be in about twelve hours after its release. In the meantime, it opens this Friday (2/12) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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