An almost elegant redemption thriller.
The 2016 thriller ‘Standoff‘ is probably the simplest film your ever likely to see. And with a trio of standout performances and taught direction it’s simply charming.
A girl named “Bird” (Ella Ballentine) accidentally encounters a hitman (Laurence Fishburne) “on the job” while visiting her parents’ grave at a rural cemetery. Caught sans ski-mask, the hitman pursues Bird into a neighboring farmstead owned by burned-out ex-soldier Carter (Thomas Jane). Looking for redemption after his son’s accidental death Carter brings the girl into his home.
So Carter and Bird hold steady upstairs while the hitman stalks his prey below. The perfect stalemate. See, simple.
As most of the tension is built around what might happen the only thing left for these three to do is talk. A father/daughter bond is quickly established between Carter and this orphaned, bookish girl. While Carter and the hitman (named “Sade” in the credits) communicate through threats, curse-laden rants, and the occasional probing confession about how their mutually poor choices brought them to this very moment.
Fishburne is on-fire as this whip-smart bad ass whose professionalism is only outclassed by ruthlessness. And Jane is ever his equal. However, it’s Ella Ballentine as budding photo journalist “Bird” that wins the film. Finally, a child actor who both fits and acts the part.
Only the melodramatic opener depicting Carter’s “happier times” and that B-movie worthy graveyard assault sully the vibe. But, once these foes of circumstance reach their full fury it’s pure movie magic. The devilish twists and turns taken to get to its all but foregone conclusion truly surprise. This isn’t a cookie-cutter exercise, there’s creativity employed in bringing things together.
Looking forward to what first-time filmmaker Adam Alleca does next. With a little more money and a tighter script, who knows? Anyhoo, ‘Standoff‘ is an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes of your time.