25th May2020

‘A Clear Shot’ Review

by Dom Hastings

Stars: Mario Van Peebles, Michael Balin, Tony Dew, Kevin Bach, Hao Do, Dang Tran, Mandela Van Peebles, Jessica Meza, Marshal Hilton, David Fernandez Jr., Lance Woods, Sandra Gutierrez, Jeanne Carr, Diana Acevedo, Alex Felix | Written and Directed by Nick Leisure

“I’m not the manager and I don’t get paid enough for this sh*t!”

Intercutting its opening titles with the loading of a gun, ​A Clear Shot​ ​immediately hooks you in with its projected intensity. To top things off? None other than the routine, yet always chilling, “Based on a true story.” The terrifying thing here, however, is that the true story here is the tragic 1991 Sacramento hostage crisis, the largest hostage siege negotiation ever attempted in the United States.

Initially, it’s just a normal working day within The Leisure Guys! electronics store – employees joking with one another, curious customers, and shoplifting. A group of four Vietnamese barge their way in, weapons loaded, ready for a robbery. The intent of gunmen Long (Tony Dew), Pham (Kevin Bach), Loi (Hao Do) and Cuong (Dang Tran) is to obtain the contents of the store’s safe, though the only employee at hand is clueless in this regard, and immediately, the plan begins to fall apart.

As tensions grow between the gunmen, hostage negotiator Gomez (Mario Van Peebles) enters the fray – he’s the best there is. Intent on delivering a peaceful action plan to resolve the situation, Gomez finds himself opposing a predictably slimey and overzealous Sheriff Todd (Michael Balin), who is in control of the SWAT team, eager to cause bloodshed as much as the crazed Long inside the store. Collectively the goal of the gunmen is to acquire the riches and progress to a better lifestyle, one in which they have been denied in the US due to their background. Individually, however, their respective levels of violence and intent vary drastically. Loi, for example, the group’s supposed leader – only doing this so that his wimp brother can have a college/university education – is borderline comedic throughout, especially when blaring out demands for body armour “like RoboCop.”…

Tonally, until the third act at least, ​A Clear Shot ​is severely inconsistent and far from concrete. Essentially, this film is primarily viewed like a black comedy. Only in the final act is the severity of the subject at hand truly comprehended. Its unwanted comedic tone can establish the burning question “Why?” from viewers, but thankfully, the comic nature doesn’t become a tragedy in itself. If you’re familiar with the real life tragedy, then obviously the viewing of ​A Clear Shot transitions into a viewing of intense and critical curiosity – potentially arguing against the events on screen in comparison to what actually happened. This notion is frequent with the biopic also if one happens to be somewhat knowledgeable of the central figure.

Nick Leisure’s ​A Clear Shot ​is quite the mystique. A production of deception, maybe even a chameleon. The light tone is just a prelude to an extremely intense situation for both the characters and the viewer of the film. The trickery in this action is to an elite level of catching the viewer off guard. Ultimately, ​A Clear Shot i​ s a clear success in its existence as a “true” crime story. A sincere portrayal of the film’s antagonists, there will likely be debates as to whether the villainous gunmen were portrayed and presented with humility and sympathy, though if anything, this could hopefully lead to the questioning of why individuals succumb to such villainy in order to surpass negativity brought on by others.

*** 3/5

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