Struggling to create a true identity and life plan, while building strong relationships with people who actually care about you, is a strong theme in the new comedy-drama ‘Stand Off,’ which is set to be released in New York theaters on Friday. Director Terry George created an ensemble group of characters who come from different backgrounds, but who all struggle to find meaning in the choices they’re given and the lifestyles they lead. The filmmaker also utilized realistic locations that emphasize the underlying connections between the characters, and how their decisions directly and indirectly affect those around them.
‘Stand Off’ opens with Massachusetts resident Joe Maguire (Brendan Fraser) fleeing from his wife, who is later exposed to be the daughter of a South Boston Mafia kingpin. Fearing the consequences of arguing with her, Joe travels to Belfast and begins running his cousin’s antiques shop. Joe becomes increasingly worried when he sees Jimbo (Martin McCann), a gambler in debt to the local Mafia, apparently stalking him. But Joe’s worries about Jimbo begin to cease when he starts courting Ethiopian refugee Sophie (Yaya DaCosta),
The underemployed Jimbo, meanwhile, is struggling to provide for his wife and their newborn son, as he owes Mad Dog Flynn (David O’Hara), the local gang boss, $5,000. Since Jimbo can’t afford to pay his debt, Flynn settles on taking his child to give to his girlfriend, who wants a baby. Desperate to keep his son and instead pay off his debt, Jimbo steals from a local fish market, which is incidentally owned by Flynn. In order to get sufficient money from the scene of the crime, Jimbo takes a bag with compromising contents for the gangster.
After Detective Weller (Colm Meaney) is called onto the scene to manage the robbery, Jimbo brings his son into Joe’s antique store, and holds him and Sophie hostage. Jimbo tries to keep the situation under control, but it quickly becomes worse when he reveals that Joe may be his illegitimate father. Outside, the Ministry of Defense (Tom Hollander) sends in an SAS swat team to maintain the peace, while Flynn plans to blow up the evidence inside the store.
George, who co-wrote the comedy-drama’s screenplay with Thomas Gallagher, unfortunately failed to emulate the in-depth character development and analysis featured in his Academy Award-nominated historical biography ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ The crime film aimed to showcase the emotions and motivations of the protagonists and villains, and in the process, created one-dimensional characters who don’t truly seem to understand why their wrongdoings are mistakes, and how they can truly rectify them. Between explaining why Joe fled to Belfast and wants to pursue a relationship with Sophie, why Jimbo feels pressured to resort to stealing to repay his debt and why Detective Weller wants to discreetly end the hostage crisis, none of the characters truly know how to relate to each other. They only seemed focused on figuring out how to end the hostage crisis in a way that would benefit them, making the negotiations with each other seem futile.
Despite seemingly rushing the character development of the main characters, George, who was born and raised in Belfast, used his knowledge of the area to impressively capture the city’s culture and structure visually. With the help of production designer David Craig, the director emotionally showcased the tattered lower-to-middle class neighborhoods that are struggling to survive, from the sparsely frequented Maguire family antique shop to Flynn’s small casino to Jimbo’s bare thread apartment.
George’s commendably planned locations also helped emphasize the interlacing connections between the residents of the community. With Jimbo unwittingly robbing Flynn’s fish store, his ill-conceived plan to pay the mobster off proved how deeply the mob boss had a hand in running the city. Jimbo instinctively decided to seek refuge in the antique store during his impromptu hostage plan, proving that he finally found the courage to confront the man he believes is his father.
Despite George’s best efforts to showcase how one man’s spontaneous plan to fix his life can have lasting and life-altering repercussions on countless people, both by being directly and indirectly involved in the plot, the characters in ‘Stand Off’ are all unfortunately superficial to some degree. While many of the characters, including Joe and Detective Weller, say they want to help Jimbo fix his life and get out of Flynn’s debt, they seem primarily focused on ending the hostage quickly and saving their lives. However, Craig helped George create visually captivating sets that helped emphasize the characters’ and the story’s real motivations and messages, most importantly valuing true relationships and confronting situations that may be negatively influencing their lives.