Monday, August 1, 2016

Film Review: Standoff (2016)

Standoff (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a simple movie with plenty of suspense and action."

While visiting the graves of her parents, Bird (Ella Ballentine), a young girl, witnesses a hitman (Laurence Fishburne) killing people at the graveyard...

Standoff is a very simple and contrived thriller. The film follows Bird, a young girl who is attached to her camera. She visits the graves of her parents on the anniversary of their deaths, which happens to coincide with another unrelated funeral in the graveyard. From the wild, a hitman emerges and kills everyone – and Bird photographs him. So, Bird, being chased by the hitman, ends up at the house of a Carter Green (Thomas Jane, who I always get confused with Aaron Eckhart), who just so happens to be planning his suicide – convenient, right? Anyway, Carter is shot, but he survives. He brings Bird into his house and the pair retreat upstairs where they gain the upper-ground. From there, it's really a small game of cat-and-mouse in the house. Since the plot is so contrived, it leads to the ending you are expecting.

I know, I know: it's a movie, you're supposed to suspend disbelief! I tried my best to do so, but, for a film grounded in reality, it's a bit difficult. It's not like any of this is unbelievable, it's just that some of the characters are so damn stupid – and the plot often relies on that stupidity as a crutch. To avoid major spoilers, I'll stick to this example: a cop hears gunfire, but, for some dimwitted reason, refuses to call it in. Why wouldn't he call it in? Because it's convenient. The film is riddled with plot contrivances from beginning to end. Even the concept of the plot forces you to immediately suspend disbelief. It's just too shamelessly reliant on its convenience and it's bothersome. If the filmmakers won't bother to at least cover their tracks, why should I be lenient in any way, right?

Standoff wasn't completely bad, though. It definitely is not the worst film I've seen this year – far from it, actually. Although the plot was flimsy, I was engaged from beginning to end thanks to the action and suspense. Yes, most of the action and suspense scenes are products of plot contrivances, but it worked. At times, it kept me at the edge of my seat. During others, I was fully engaged during some of the condescending exchanges between our hitman and Carter. It doesn't over-stay its welcome, either. The film breezes through its measly 80-minute runtime (without credits) thanks to its simple plot and moderate pace.

The acting was also good. Thomas Jane occasionally felt like he was phoning it in, but he was more than serviceable. Ella Ballentine performs well, too – much better than many of the child actors I've seen before. Laurence Fishburne steals the show. Sure, his character isn't exactly unique, but he performs with confidence. Every line is delivered with conviction, which often amplified the suspense of the film. The movie looks and sounds good, too. The film was written and directed by Adam Alleca. I think Alleca is a fine director. In fact, I'd say Alleca's direction really saved this film. He knows how to craft suspenseful scenes, even with a weak script. However, Alleca is also responsible for said script. The writing is just too contrived, generic, and safe. It's a been-there-done-that screenplay that feels like a first draft.

Overall, Standoff was a good experience. It's a simple movie with plenty of suspense and action. It's also paced very well. The performances – particularly, Laurence Fishburne's performance – were also good. It is a film that relies on stupid characters doing stupid things, though, and that often bothered me. I can suspend disbelief, especially if the writing tried to cover its ass, but the writing in this film clearly didn't. It's a good rental, but I can't recommend much more.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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