Adam Alleca’s Standoff relies entirely on one very simple, very basic premise. When merciless hitman Sade (Fishbourne) is witnessed “working” by a young girl (Ballentine), she flees with him in pursuit. Stumbling across troubled alcoholic Carter (Jane), he vows to protect her, as Sade besieges his farmhouse.
For thirty minutes or so Standoff is a tense, nail-biting thriller that draws you tentatively towards the edge of your seat. The remaining running time pushes you so far back from that edge that it leaves you positively lounging, wearily hoping that somebody, anybody gets “dead” soon to bring the film to a thankful conclusion.
Much of the attraction within Standoff is in watching Fishbourne let off some well-scripted steam, as the vindictive and single-minded Sade. He struts and monologues with wonderfully bleak language, that occasionally threatens to slip into hammy consumption of the scenery, but pulls back just in time to leave him pouting malevolently like a menacingly brooding preacher. It is a character given depth and intrigue through the removal of unnecessary backstory or tedious filler, and you even find yourself wavering occasionally towards supporting him, as opposed to Jane’s beleaguered veteran.
For his part Jane, and the impressive Ballentine, provide able support. It is a difficult role for the former, as he is forced to carry much of the emotional weight with a character that is deeply stereotypical. That he does so with an empathetic sense of weary conviction is to Jane’s great credit. You are presented early on with the possibility of there not being a particularly happy ending to Standoff, but Jane manages to just about delay the certainty of this through a resilience that, unfortunately, becomes a little too sugary with forced sincerity in the final act.
This is without doubt Fishbourne’s film though, and he visibly relishes a role that really deserved to be in a better release. For his exuberantly evil performance alone, Standoff is worth checking out, but you could easily switch it off after the first half and you will have saved yourself the trouble of staying awake through to the end. Alleca to his credit has demonstrated a talent for catchy, Tarantino-esque dialogue and competent direction that develops genuine tension, but he ultimately runs out of the plot required in order to sustain it. This is decent film that, like Idris Elba’s recent No Good Deed, contains a well-loved actor channelling their darker side through an interesting character that grows to become larger than the film around it.
STANDOFF / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ADAM ALLECA / STARRING: LAURENCE FISHBURNE, THOMAS JANE, JIM WATSON, ELLA BALLENTINE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW