In 1991, I was 10 years old and paying zero attention to news, local or national (such blissful times). One of the news stories I apparently missed that year was the largest hostage siege negotiation in the United States. Thanks in part to a lack of ideas and an industry that sometimes seems to value quantity regardless of quality, that 1991 event is now loosely immortalized in the new thrilling and insightful film A Clear Shot from writer-director Nick Leisure and starring acclaimed actor Mario Van Peebles.
The film begins with the four gunmen preparing to takeover a Leisure Guys Electronics Store in Sacramento (in reality, the store was called Good Guys and I wonder if the director intentionally re-named it after himself or maybe they did not want a loose connection to the Child’s Play reboot). We then transition inside the Leisure Guys store to meet a few stereotypical employees and customers causally going about their day. One employee unintentionally insults a customer. Another employee, Chip (Justin Nesbitt; Speed Kills) awkwardly greets the new manager, Hugh (newcomer Lance Woods), on his first day. A customer is shown shoplifting a DVD while a pregnant woman distracts the employees.
Within a few moments, the four gunmen throw the store into turmoil. A couple people manage to hide and contact the law enforcement outside. The four gunmen are not exactly a cohesive group and have their own internal conflict. At least one would prefer no violence or bloodshed, while at least one wants to start shooting almost immediately. Flashbacks provide some context for how they got to this point by delving, albeit not too deeply, into the emotional and social difficulties of immigrant assimilation in America.
Outside the store, the police departments’ top negotiator, Rick Gomez (Mario Van Peebles; New Jack City, Heartbreak Ridge), leads the efforts to try to talk down the gunmen and keep everyone safe while coordinating with S.W.A.T. and the police, some of whom are eager to put an end to the situation by any means necessary. Officer Advencula (Jessica Meza; General Hospital, Death Calls) becomes Gomez’ primary supporter and potential love interest.
The film plays out as one might expect, especially if you remember or read about the events on which this was based. The acting (and story) is on par with what you would see on a television network police procedural; not very memorable, but exciting while watching. Given that DVDs and flatscreen TVs are present, it seems the filmmakers decided to stick to a more modern setting than when the real events took place. There is almost no epilogue for most of the characters, though the movie does close with the standard “based on a true story” follow up text that briefly touches on the aftermath of the real event.
A Clear Shot comes to DVD and Digital June 2 from Uncork’d Entertainment.