For the most part he has the ability to elevate stock-standard, run-of-the-mill productions with his grizzly, rugged charm, often giving a smudge of credence to otherwise lackluster affairs. Thankfully director Adam Alleca's stylish debut STANDOFF is up to a standard that gives Jane something to work with - a little bit of scenery to chew on - even if only just.
In it he plays Carter, a war veteran with his own tortured past, who winds up protecting a 12-year-old girl, Bird, from an assassin (Laurence Fishburne) after she witnesses him murdering just about everyone in sight at a funeral. Left holding a shotgun with just a single shell, and sporting a newly acquired gunshot wound, he engages in physical and psychological warfare with the killer in a battle of endurance and wit for the girl's life.
For the most part STAND OFF plays out in real time. It's an efficient 85-minute cat-and-mouse thriller between hero and killer, the former at the top of a stairwell, the latter at the foot - like a deranged Romeo And Juliette. An all but abandoned farmhouse sets the scene for a contained, microcosm version of RIO BRAVO or ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13; a wooden building that becomes a powder keg of chaos and misery.
It's a wordy, sometimes overly verbose film, but thankfully it's never boring.
Alleca's script has its moments of intelligence and nifty characterizations, more than you'd expect from a direct-to-DVD release, but for all of its tough-guy talk and posturing, it smacks of been-there-seen-that antics, and becomes a cynical two-hander between two opposing forces with plenty of spanners thrown into the works. Fortunately there is more than enough happening to keep it lively and to stop you thinking about the proceedings too hard.
Freed from his shackles of combustible restraint in TV's HANNIBAL, Fishbourne cuts loose as the assassin, Sade, having some fun with the words of the ex-special forces hitman; slightly cartoonish but full of venom & vinegar and Jane brings the swagger.
It's not all success, however. The film oscillates uneasily between trite cliche and moments of genuinely inspired direction, and if nothing else it promises a career for Alleca behind the lens.
STANDOFF is a modest film that, with lesser stars and a less capable first-time director, could have turned out terrible, instead it just clears watchable.