‘A Clear Shot’ reviewed

❉ New to VOD, a true crime drama starring Mario Van Peebles. But is it any good? Nick Clement reviews.

“outside of Van Peebles, nobody makes much of an impression, and even Van Peebles seems mildly annoyed to have taken this particular job.”

A Clear Shot, which has been slickly but impersonally helmed by prolific commercials and music video veteran Nick Leisure, tells the familiar story of a hostage situation spiralling way out of control, and is based on (or, as the film’s credits state, “inspired by”) the true story of the brazen 1991 robbery of a Good Guys Electronics store in Sacramento. The crime, perpetrated by four, heavily-armed Vietnamese men who were barking about bizarre ransoms that had to be satisfied in an alarmingly small amount of time, grabbed worldwide headlines because of the amount of hostages (forty) and the amount of total deaths (six). It’s a compelling story, to be sure, but since it’s handled in such rote, boring fashion by Leisure, who is done no favours by his own uninspired screenplay, there’s not much pop or excitement, to say nothing of dramatic conviction.

It’s not hard to see why this effort is a straight to VOD item, and even then, the “straight to VOD” moniker doesn’t mean what it used to mean, as there’s plenty of quality offerings that bypass theatrical release in favour of finding dedicated audiences on streaming platforms and Blu-ray/DVD. A Clear Shot never separates itself from any random TV movie of the week or network drama pilot, and because nearly every moment is telegraphed either through weak performances or the audience’s collective understanding of this genre, there’s nothing new or defining about the picture overall; it exists as yet another formulaic piece of entertainment that’s been designed to “thrill” but leaves you wanting more. And in the few moments where you think the piece might kick-start itself alive with something interesting, there are more than a few elements which continually keep the piece grounded in mediocrity.

This low-budget production skimps heavily in the area of production value and well-seasoned supporting actors (there are some amateurish performances which ruin a few scenes), and outside of Van Peebles, nobody makes much of an impression, and even Van Peebles seems mildly annoyed to have taken this particular job. He’s had a very odd filmography, with all sorts of minor parts in serious films, and then an insane amount of leading-man nonsense in C-grade junk and below. He’s always had talent; he’s just had the worst agent or not the best taste in material. At best, A Clear Shot offers up a few choice scenes of intrigue, a couple bursts of decent action/mayhem, but too often, we’re stuck listening to banal dialogue spoken by sub-par actors and actresses, all of whom collectively bring down the material. A good movie remains to be made on this same story.

❉ ‘A Clear Shot’ comes to DVD and Digital June 2 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

 Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

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