Written by first time director Adam Alleca, Standoff is a verbose thriller that stars heavyweight actors Laurence Fishburne and Thomas Jane along with the excellent child actress Ella Ballentine (who already has 16 credits to her name). The film focusses upon this intimate cast after a murderous open and despite the claustrophobic nature of the setting entertains.
Bird (Ballentine) is at a cemetery to visit her dead parent’s grave. She takes her camera, although her “uncle” Roger does not want her to. A funeral service is taking place and Roger tells the girl not to photograph the proceedings.
She does though and captures hitman Sade (Fishburne) killing the small number of mourners and the preacher presiding over the burial. The murderer spies her and gives chase. Bird’s uncle is also murdered and the girl runs to the house that belongs to Carter Green (Jane).
Carter is depressed and about to commit suicide when the girl arrives at his doorstep. The Army veteran is shot in the leg by Sade and he, in turn, shoots the killer in the stomach. He then holds off the killer with his 20 gauge shotgun.
This is a violent film. Sade tortures a character horrifically and is all too eager to kill whoever is in front of his gunsights. There are long bits of verbal exchanges with small bursts of action. Said action is mostly rather intense and at times very bloody.
It is the psychological warfare between the two men that drags on that bit too long. The film feels like a Japanese ’60s film where the protagonists have reams of dialogue between truncated scenes of action.
Fishburne chews great bloody bits of scenery with his cold-blooded and eager to kill contract hitman. Jane’s performance is one of controlled intensity. Both men work well off the other. Laurence making his character bigger than life works well opposite Jane’s more down to earth terse performance.
Ballentine is spot on as the girl whose parents died in a crash. There is never any point where the young actor does not sell her character fully. The young performer impresses with her interpretation of a young damsel in distress.
Alleca takes his story seriously and presents it accordingly. One never doubts that one, or more, of these characters will die a painful death. However what starts as a tense experience soon falters into an overly verbal bit of interaction between the two alpha males in the picture.
The cinematography by Zoran Popovic (War Inc, Shiver) is brilliantly dark, where it needs to be, and stark at all the right moments. The scenes in the house are dramatically shot and the lighting is spot on. Susan Maggi edits the film deftly and on point.
The feel of Standoff is similar to those westerns where the protagonists are surrounded by an enemy who demands only the release of one individual. In this instance Jane’s character is the cavalry commander who refuses to acquiesce to Fishburne’s savage killer.
Despite the overly verbal nature of the film, it grips the viewer throughout. We care about Carter Green and the little girl he is attempting to save. The damaged veteran who holds out against the professional hitman is not necessarily likable but we understand his misery and admire his resolve.
Beyond any shadow of doubt, Laurence Fishburne gives great “bad guy.” His villainy is complete, even before the hammer.
At 80 minutes the film does not drag on too long. At no point, despite the verbal sparring, does the film drag. There is also a splendid, yet small, twist at the end which is pleasing and full of irony.
Standoff is a sold 4 star film. The cast alone makes this film worth watching. Alleca has done very well his first time in the chair and his effort reveals a man to watch. The film is streaming on Netflix at the moment. Stop by and check this ‘R’ rated film out, you will be glad you did.