Monday, July 25, 2016


By now, most people know that I give a lot of movies favorable odds when making the choice to take in a viewing—sometimes finding a diamond in the rough that I’ll love, but most of the time spending hours of my life watching duds.  I try to go by, and trust, the rating system of Netflix, but it leaves me astray at times.  See, they go by a rating system—given by the average of members who give their evaluation out of a possible five stars and it can be a little off-putting if it doesn’t land on a full star.  For instance, maybe there’s a title that shows an average rating of 2.6 stars; it’s almost three, but not quite.  You can take a chance and it just might be a winner…but it can easily be a washout.  Let’s face it…the rating system is basically run by the members and it’s a simple numbers game that can be manipulated easily.  Hell, I’ve given one-star ratings on a movie simply because I didn’t like the genre, so other members probably do the same.  So…as it stands, I’m strictly going by a rule that any movie I put on my Netflix queue that I’ve never seen has to be a full three stars or better, none of this 2.6 or 2.7 stuff…so when I saw this title, Standoff, and how it had an average of 3.8 stars, I placed it in my queue.

A somewhat inventive feature Netflix came about presenting some time ago was giving its members the ability to stream movies.  It came about at a time when not too many resources were offering that service, being that it had been something you could only do on your computer, before smart TVs or tablets or cell phones had the ability…hell, smart TVs weren’t even invented yet.  It was amusing, looking back at it, because when I first started using this feature, you needed a disc to be inserted into your computer or Playstation console in order to stream the movies or television series.  Within time, however, Netflix has perfected the service and it’s a prominent one that more and more online subscription networks—such as Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, etc.—are offering, leaving Blu-Ray and DVD as a thing of the past.

The reason for that little side note was that when the disc for Standoff showed up in my mailbox, I’d noticed that the movie had just become available on Netflix Streaming.  I was sitting, going through the menu of new movies, knowing full well that I had the disc sitting on my shelf but opted to see what was streaming because I wasn’t really feeling the desire to put the disc in my PS4.  One good thing about trundling through the titles is that they give better plot descriptions and it shuffles through a few screenshots from the movie itself…and that’s what prompted me to watch the film…even though I had the disc sitting there and didn’t feel like watching it in the first place.  Aaaaah…Netflix psychology…

Okay, with all that personal narrative aside, I’ve always liked Thomas Jane as an actor.  Not that he’s a world renowned thespian, but I feel he does a terrific job as a commanding presence when he’s on the screen.  I love The Mist and I even like the widely panned The Punisher (see my review from way back on July 29th of 2014), so when I’d spotted his name on this title being discussed today, I decided to click on it and watch.

Here’s the synopsis…

A troubled war veteran, Carter (Thomas Jane), gets a chance at redemption by protecting a 12-year-old girl, Bird (Ella Ballentine), from an assassin named Sade (Laurence Fishburne) after she witnesses a murder committed by him.  Holding a shotgun with a single shell, Carter engages in physical and psychological warfare with Sade in a desperate fight for the girl’s life.

Okay, before going into this film, I’ve got to address the elephant in the room…well…a movie credit I’d seen at the beginning.  Hayden Christensen as executive producer…double-you tee eff?  I guess that Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith money is really paying off for him.

All kidding aside…

I’d gushed over Thomas Jane and his performances in a few films, but this film also stars another actor I’ve admired as well—Laurence Fishburne.  He’s been in a ton of movies that I’ve enjoyed over the years and he’s quite a chameleon, never seeming like he’s been typecast in his career.  Fishburne has been in such acclaimed films like Apocalypse NowThe Color PurpleKing of New YorkBoyz n the Hood, and what he’s probably most known for…The Matrix.  Of course, recently, he’s had smaller parts—but notable ones—in Predators and Man of Steel, and I’d really liked his part in the latter.  Although I really hadn’t heard too much of a backlash that you’ll normally hear when a well-known Caucasian fictional character is played by an African-American, but his take on Perry White was nice and brought a better and modern take on the chief newspaper editor.  Though he isn’t too recognized for playing the bad guy in films, here in Standoff, he does it so well it’s scary.

Now, I like this type of movie, and it’s appropriately titled with the subgenre description, so I guess they didn’t find the need to name it something elaborate or silly. 

One aspect of a movie such as Standoff is usually a problem and may cause the whole movie to go down the drain because of this one ingredient—child actors.  Filmmakers may get lucky and have such a great movie, like Child’s Play, you won’t notice the bad child acting from Alex Vincent as Andy.  Or they may hit the lottery and get a performance like the one from Danny Pintauro asTad in the film, Cujo.  More than likely, however, you may get a child actor, like Jake Lloyd as Annikin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace (though, the fact that Jar Jar Binks is even worse in this movie makes many people overlook Lloyd’s performance), or—the worse I’ve ever seen—Courtland Mead as Danny Torrance in the TV movie remake of The Shining (ugh! He is TERRIBLE in that film).  The point I’m taking much too long to get at is how much of a great performance we get from Ella Ballentine as the young girl, Isabelle—nicknamed Bird—who is being hunted by Fishburne’s character.  Most of the story takes place in an isolated farmhouse with Ballentine and Jane spending a lot of time together as he protects her from any harm.  It’s very touching, seeing that Jane’s character recently lost his young son and seems suicidal when we first meet him.  If this film didn’t find a young actress that could put up a top notch performance, this movie wouldn’t have been as good.

Not only are the quiet scenes between Thomas Jane and the young girl absorbing, but the back-and-forth amid him and Fishburne is quite nice.  The action part of their exchanges was exciting, as well as the suspense of what each man is planning (Jane’s upstairs with the girl and Fishburne is downstairs patiently waiting, both with their respective weapons), and I just loved when they were cutting each other down.  Very strong scenes from these guys gave the film the good rating it had on Netflix.

Recently, I’d reviewed Cell, the Stephen King adaptation that left me kind of cold, and in that review I had mentioned the writer was Adam Alleca.  While I hadn’t necessarily bashed him for what I had thought of that movie, I made it clear he was sort of responsible, so I wanted to redeem him here for what he’d put together.  Being somewhat of an original story (let’s face it, there have been flicks—or at least large scenes in films—like this where someone has to stand their ground against an adversary who’s trying to oppose them), Alleca totally compensates for the written work he’s done in the past, which was The Last House on the Left (a remake of an early Wes Craven film) and what he’d worked on soon after this—Cell

My final “bit” on Standoff?

The movie is one of those stories where you chomp at the bit, wondering how it’s going to end.  Though there aren’t too many twists and turns, the film does feature some choices by the characters (namely, Fishburne’s) you may be surprised by and even some that’ll make you angry.  It really has more suspense than I thought it would have and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this film.  The chemistry between the trio of actors here were perfect and everything gelled together to make a great ending that I was very satisfied with.  I highly recommended Standoff.

Thanks for reading!

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