STAND OFF – DVD review

It’s hard to tell what the folks behind “Stand Off” thought they had when they started off on this misbegotten project. Quirky slice of life? Local color comedy?  Reasonable excuse to avoid doing the laundry?

“Stand Off” stars Brendan Fraser as Joe Maguire, an American on the run from his crazy wife and Boston mob boss father-in-law. He takes refuge behind the counter of an antique store in Belfast, meeting an attractive young lady in Sophie (the wonderfully named YaYa DaCosta). Through a convoluted turn of events, he and Sophie and two kids hiding inside a sofa (don’t ask) are taken hostage in the store when Jimbo (Martin McCann) storms in armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun and a baby in a pram. Jimbo is also on the run after botching a fish market hold-up, and he soon realizes he’s unknowingly ripped off Mad Dog Flynn, the very mob boss he’s deeply in debt to already.

And then there’s Colm Meaney as a detective, and the SAS, and some nonsense about rare stamps and coins, and it’s all as forced and forgettable as it sounds. Shockingly, this woeful misfire was co-written and directed by Terry George, recent Oscar winner for the live action short “The Shore” and director of “Hotel Rwanda” and ‘”A Bright Shining Lie.” Maybe he needed a busman’s holiday from genocide and war trauma. Can’t blame a guy for that.

But you can blame him for this undernourished, unconvincing script, written with Thomas Gallagher. It’s all harmless enough, I guess, but a great indicator of the inspiration and wit involved is in the original title “Whole Lotta Sole”. You know, because of the fish market, and the… well, yeah, because of the fish market. There is the occasional decent laugh, but the characterizations and plot twists are as thin and see-through as a pair of yoga pants.

Fraser kind of shrugs his way through, exerting the effort more suited to doing a crossword puzzle or guesting on the Jimmy Fallon show. David O’Hara brings a low-key menace to Mad Dog, and Meaney is watchable as always, but he is outgunned in the face of the obvious realization by seemingly everyone involved that this movie is simply not up to the task of its humble demands, and they just need to get it over with, like a tax audit.

It’s probably violating some kind of critic’s Hippocratic Oath for me to say I was actually relieved when a rocket-propelled grenade launcher served as a sort of deus ex something or other, bringing on the toothless, perfunctory wrap-up and letting everyone get on with their lives.

This DVD edition of “Stand Off” is presented in Widescreen 1.89:1 ratio, and includes a code for a digital copy available thru VUDU. There is an English SDH subtitle track. Picture quality is satisfactory but unremarkable.

The audio track is offered in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Stereo.

Original theatrical trailer

Parting thoughts:
A lightweight comedy-drama that’s neither of those things, “Stand Off” is an empty exercise even Brendan Fraser fans will have trouble enjoying.