By Dave B.
In Standoff (2016, currently on Netflix) Bird (Ella Ballentine) witnesses a vicious assassination at a cemetery while visiting the graves of her parents and takes a picture of the perpetrator. She’s spotted by the hitman (Laurence Fishburne) and flees to a nearby farmhouse where former soldier Carter Greene (Thomas Jane) is about to take his own life. Bird beseeches the distraught (and now confused) Carter for help. When the hitman arrives, a brief gun battle ensues leaving both men injured. With Bird and Carter at the top of the stairs armed with a shotgun (and a single shell) and the hitman at the bottom, more well-armed, but more gravely wounded and needing to guarantee that both the girl and the film are destroyed, a battle of wits and endurance ensues, creating a deadly stalemate with both sides running out of time to ensure their survival.
Standoff is perhaps the most aptly named movie that I’ve watched this year and I mean that as a compliment. For the majority of film’s 86 minutes, Carter and the hitman goad, belittle, and attempt to mentally and physically outmaneuver each other, to no avail. It’s easy to see how a movie in which there is very little narrative progress could be boring, but director Adam Alleca does a wonderful job of continuously ratcheting up the tension to nearly unbearable levels. The score and cinematography in the film are more than acceptable and help to maintain an air of adrenaline, pain, and alcohol-fueled intensity.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that Standoff is well-written, at least not entirely. The dialogue between Jane and Fishburne is witty and engaging at times, but the plot is filled with too many overly convenient moments. In and of itself, that would annoy the hell out of me, except…Jane and Fishburne are a delight to watch onscreen together. Combined with Ballentine’s performance, the trio take a well-worn idea and an average-at-best script, and create a convincing and ultimately likeable character study. Perhaps even that praise is going to far. It may be more accurate to say that Ballentine displays admirable skill for a child actress and Fishburne and Jane fill their characters with a passion and vibrancy that is worth seeing.
Ultimately, Standoff doesn’t bring much new to the table. It isn’t creative or imaginative enough to be considered high art and it isn’t flashy enough to be considered a blockbuster. But both Jane and Fishburne, talented actors who are often underutilized when they get roles, give performances that I really enjoy and Standoff offers the perfect opportunity to watch both men shine. I recommend it for that reason.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.