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Stand Off DVD + Digital Copy Review

Stand Off (2013) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Stand Off

Video Premiere: March 26, 2013 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Terry George / Writers: Thomas Gallagher (story & screenplay); Terry George (screenplay)

Cast: Brendan Fraser (Joseph Maguire), Colm Meaney (Detective Inspector Weller), Martin McCann (Jimbo Regan), Yaya DaCosta (Sophie), David O'Hara (Douglas "Mad Dog" Flynn), Michael Legge (Randy Weller), Conor MacNeill (Sox), Frankie McCafferty (Skins), Rupert Wickham (Captain Thomas Farnsworth SAS), Mary McCrossan (Annie), Amanda Hurwitz (Mary Ellen), Marie Jones (Maisie Flynn), James Greene (Granda Sox), Jamie Kierans (Petie), James Napier (Paulie), Jonathan Harden (Sammy Pavis), Jaz Pollock (Sox's Ma), Maggie Cronin (Alice Weller), Brooke Hamilton (Bridie), Sean Sloan (Inspector Stewart), Arlo Dylan Murphy McWilliams (Baby Sean), Kauli Long (Baby Sean), Tom Hollander (Minister of Defense - uncredited)

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None / Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled or Captioned; Suggested Retail Price: $20.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also in Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack ($24.99 SRP)

Buy Stand Off from Amazon.com: DVD Blu-ray + DVD

Brendan Fraser has long seemed like the kind of actor who would be relegated to direct-to-video movies. I like the guy a lot and I'm impressed that he's managed to have a long career as leading man of cinema. One didn't foresee that from his breakout film, the 1992 comedy Encino Man. Nor from his follow-up works like Airheads and With Honors, enjoyable fare but the kind that lends more to frequent cable broadcasts than Hollywood stardom. Then, Fraser landed George of the Jungle, one of Disney's rare late-'90s live-action hits and the last moneymaker in a wave of films adapted from old TV cartoons.
Gods and Monsters offered a brush with critical respectability, Blast from the Past became another one of those movies that always seem to be on television and always manage to entertain. Then, there was The Mummy, which had more success than it had any reason to.

If that franchise-launching desert action remake established Fraser's marquee value, the films that followed undid it. Dudley Do-Right was a huge bomb the same summer. The comedy remake Bedazzled underperformed the following year. In 2001, Monkeybone was another flop of epic proportions. When The Mummy Returns did good business, you'd think that the industry would recognize it was the material and not the leading man drawing crowds. Fraser's next wide release, 2003's Looney Tunes: Back in Action, added to his legacy of costly disappointments. By now, he had to be regarded as box office poison. Over the next four years, Fraser would have just one movie released theatrically: the ensemble drama Crash that would become one of the more surprising Oscar Best Picture winners.

Despite that honor, Fraser found his next movies getting limited theatrical release or not at all. Career revival would come with yet another fantastical remake, Journey to the Center of the Earth, a mid-summer 2008 release that flourished on a modest budget and, before it was commonplace, 3D. The next month, another Mummy sequel came and performed adequately and much better overseas. In sticking with tradition, Fraser followed his latest hits with misses: Inkheart fell way short of expectations, the true drama Extraordinary Measures co-starring Harrison Ford launched CBS films on a lackluster note, and the forest-saving family comedy Furry Vengeance was even too bad for the Razzies to single out. After that run (uninterrupted save for an uncredited cameo in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Fraser should have dropped everything to be a part of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, but supposedly "scheduling issues" kept him out, allowing Dwayne Johnson to fill the vacancy to no financial drop-off.

Now, Fraser, who turned 44 in December, is back where he was in the mid-2000s and where he's long seemed destined to be, resigned to accept voiceover work or films that very well may not make it to theaters. With one of the former on the books (Escape from Planet Earth), Fraser has six other film credits either completed or in post-production that IMDb has pegged for 2013. Without a firm release date attached to a single one, don't expect to see all of them up on the big screen by New Year's Eve. It's more likely that some (and probably most) will head the direct-to-video route.

Joe Maguire (Brendan Fraser) clutches a baby while his love interest and fellow shopkeeper/hostage Sophie (Yaya DaCosta) looks on in "Stand Off."

That is the path that Stand Off seems to have taken. This film carries a 2011 date on IMDb, though its first official exhibition doesn't seem to have occurred until the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2012. The Belfast Film Festival showed it later last year, as did the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. New Zealand supposedly got theatrical release in January 2013, when the film also hit video on demand in the US. Allegedly, it received a US theatrical release in late February, but as the lack of an official box office tally suggests, this had to have been a beyond limited engagement at best.

If Belfast seems like an odd place to screen a Brendan Fraser movie, then know that this particular Brendan Fraser movie was filmed and is set in Northern Ireland. Director/co-writer Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, Reservation Road) and most of his cast are Irish, raising the question, "What is Brendan Fraser doing over there? Isn't there work for him in America?" As that full slate of upcoming projects on IMDb indicates, yes, there is work, although not much of it with a twice Oscar-nominated scribe like George (who also won an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film in 2012).

Although the cover art, title, R rating, and George's background in serious film paint this as a straight-faced heist thriller, Stand Off is as much a comedy as anything else. That plays to Fraser's strengths and makes comparisons to the likes of Martin McDonagh's In Bruges and Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz possible, minus the violence and wall-to-wall profanity. Stand Off isn't nearly as good as either of those films, but it is better than the artwork and straight-to-video status implies.

Douglas "Mad Dog" Flynn (David O'Hara) is not pleased there's no envelope for him in the till of Maguire's Antiques. Detective Inspector Weller (Colm Meaney) takes a moment from supervising the police's post to lavish praise upon fish and chips.

Fraser plays Joe Maguire, whom a brief, curious prologue set in Boston shows fleeing from a woman clad in underwear and wielding a knife. Cut to three months later and Joe is in Belfast, tending the antiques shop of his cousin, who's away on charity. Joe has repeatedly spotted a young man suspiciously scoping out his shop. Turns out that the young man, Jimbo Regan (Martin McCann), and Joe share a personal connection and are about to become much closer.

Cash-strapped Jimbo owes money to Douglas "Mad Dog" Flynn (David O'Hara), a local gangster who runs a gaming facility. Jimbo unwisely turns to roulette to pay up, but that only raises his debt to 5,000, which Flynn demands be paid by the end of the coming weekend. To satisfy his lady, impotent Flynn further raises the debt to include the 6-month-old baby boy of Jimbo and his girlfriend.
At the suggestion of his buddy Sox (Conor MacNeill), Jimbo hatches a plan to knock over a fish market, which on a Friday in this Catholic community stands to be an easy, lucrative target.

Though Sox supplies a car and an old hair-trigger submachine gun stashed away by IRA during "The Troubles", Jimbo's robbery does not go as planned. He winds up with a pitiful amount of cash, a brown messenger bag with unknown contents, his baby in a "pram" (stroller), and the gun at Joe's antiques shop. Police, led by the unhealthy-eating Detective Inspector Weller (Colm Meaney), are soon on the scene. As are Special Air Service (SAS) officers sent in by the Minister of Defense. The situation quickly develops into a hostage situation and media sandstorm (with faint echoes of Fraser's Airheads). Even Weller's young cop son (Michael Legge) is on the scene, a far cry from the community relations work he's used to.

Inside the antique shop, Jimbo drops a bombshell revelation on Joe. They are also joined by a couple of young, lower class troublemakers (Jamie Kierans and James Napier) and Sophie (Yaya DaCosta), the Ethiopian refugee employee of a nearby shop whom Joe has begun seeing. There are a number of minor twists and turns involving everything from a stolen rare stamp to a buried rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

Jimbo (Martin McCann) is a good young man whom desperation drives to desperate measures. Irish flavor is provided by the likes of this seedy family eager to sell their couch to Joe's antiques shop.

The MPAA's simple rating description ("Language") suggests things won't get too grim and they don't, with the film weathering its tension with jurisdictional wrangling, religion talk, and a brief celebration of fish and chips. Stand Off sustains an atmosphere of levity and fun, which it then undermines with occasional moments of stupidity.

The screenplay, which George seems to have reworked from unknown writer Thomas Gallagher (Suffering Man's Charity), does a good job of establishing all the characters who will feature in this circus of misunderstandings. It also has plenty of flavor and an agreeable sense of humor. But its tertiary interest, that surrounding the low-level hood "Mad Dog", provides conflict at odds with the rest of the film. Demanding a baby, eluding the law for decades, and coming to the crime scene all seems a little tidy and absurd, as do, somewhat knowingly, the happy side clips of the end credits.
While you're grateful that the villain is largely kept in the periphery (a move that salvages the film), that he's there at all to motivate the plot lowers the intelligence of the film considerably.

Originally given the more clever title Whole Lotta Sole (the name of the fish market robbed), this film was supposed to star Kevin Bacon and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the Fraser and McCann parts, back when it was first announced in late 2009.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Ketchup Entertainment's DVD treats Stand Off to fine but unspectacular picture quality. In this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the element stays clean, but sharpness, detail, and colors are a bit lacking, even for standard definition. While a small bit of shimmering may occur vary based on your player, the film never looks better than okay at any given time. The soundtrack is supplied in Dolby Digital 5.1 and unadvertised 2.0 stereo. I listened to the default former and found it satisfactory if rarely immersive. Unfortunately, Ketchup doesn't believe in subtitles. While I didn't find the Northern Irish accents hard to understand, some viewers might and for many of them, the closed captions offered won't cut it, as HDMI cables render them inaccessible.

The "Stand Off" trailer emphasizes the action with phrases like this. The fish market crime scene appears on the main menu for the film known outside the United States as "Whole Lotta Sole."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Stand Off's only on-disc extra is its trailer (1:23), which interestingly bills Colm Meaney above Brendan Fraser.
Trailers for Assassin's Bullet, For Greater Glory, Mafia, and, one for the whole family, Red Dog open the disc but cannot be accessed by menu.

That menu plays clips under a white overlay with sparks resembling portions of the cover art while a portion of the Irish-flavored score is looped.

The lone insert inside the slipcovered Eco-Box keepcase supplies general directions and a unique code for accessing a complimentary VUDU stream of the film, which may or may not meet your definition of the "digital copy" the cover promises.

Take a peek at an antique with Brendan Fraser (Brendan Fraser)... Inspector Weller (Colm Meaney) is ready to negotiate.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though it offers a fairly good time, Stand Off is not very smart and the head-scratching, dimmer moments scattered throughout do dampen the film's returns. Still, this light Irish romp is far more watchable and diverting than its direct-to-video status and dire action movie cover suggest. While it's not worth going out of your way to see and, other than a low list price, the plain, barren DVD gives little ownership incentive, this film could provide some brisk entertainment for fans of Fraser and Colm Meaney who give it a look.

Buy Stand Off from Amazon.com: DVD + Digital Copy / Blu-ray + DVD

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Related Reviews:
New: Zero Dark Thirty Mafia The Package This Must Be the Place Rust and Bone
Brendan Fraser: Journey to the Center of the Earth Inkheart Extraordinary Measures Scrubs: The Complete Third Season
Colm Meaney: Alice (2009) The Conspirator Con Air | Yaya DaCosta: The Kids Are All Right In Time
David O'Hara: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Braveheart Oliver Twist (1997)
The Guard Hot Fuzz Seven Psychopaths Stolen

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Reviewed March 15, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Ketchup Entertainment, Generator Entertainment, Limelight Media, Northern Ireland Screen, and Molinare.
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