Saddled with stodgy direction and a lackluster screenplay, THE STAND OFF takes volatile material about a hostage crisis and dulls it down. The entire film seems to be one unending establishing shot for a drama that never really begins.
Disguised as a priest, ex-convict David Maltby (Stephen Shellen) seizes control of the Bahamian Consul's office. He has a dual purpose: to ensure the release of his former cellmate Tom Ennis (Martin Julien); and to shame his city into opening a homeless shelter.
As the media and police descend on the building's perimeter, levelheaded Consul Jane Briscoe (Djanet Sears) dickers with her troubled captor, whose desperate act is the culmination of frustrations stemming from life within the penal system. Defusing the tense situation, Chief Don McCowan (David
Strathairn) rejects the gung ho approach proposed by SWAT team leader Captain Jean Leduc (Pierre Curzi).
Given 14 hours to talk Maltby into surrender, McCowan negotiates with the prison, assuages Maltby's fears, and arranges a phone call for Maltby to Ennis. With Leduc priming his men for deadly force, Briscoe initially refuses to leave when Maltby agrees to free her. Jettisoning his grand scheme,
Maltby addresses the plague of reporters; Briscoe finally walks to safety. A coda states that Maltby served six years for this crime, and was later arrested with an accomplice on kidnapping and murder charges.
Rich in irony, THE STAND OFF cries out for the kind of heated sensibility Sidney Lumet brought to DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975). Instead of resembling a media circus, the film plays more like a talky press conference. Only the suspense inherent in the hostage dilemma and capable performances save this
mundane plea for tolerance. If ever a movie needed an infusion of outrageousness, it's this somber melodrama. Thrills are put on the back burner in favor of routine soul-searching.
To the actors' credit, the movie is able to forge a Stockholm Syndrome relationship between Briscoe and Maltby; their instant rapport seems genuine. But THE STAND OFF also trumps up a rivalry between the unflappable police chief and the trigger-happy SWAT leader; their antagonism rings hollow and
doesn't build any excitement. For a thriller about risking one's life for principles and a pal, THE STAND OFF is oddly becalmed. (Violence, extreme profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Saddled with stodgy direction and a lackluster screenplay, THE STAND OFF takes volatile material about a hostage crisis and dulls it down. The entire film seems to be one unending establishing shot for a drama that never really begins. Disguised as a prie… (more)