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Even Laurence Fishburne's dependable gravitas can't take the cheesiness out of 'Standoff'

 Even Laurence Fishburne's dependable gravitas can't take the cheesiness out of 'Standoff'
A suicidal Thomas Jane, left, Joanna Douglas and hit man Laurence Fishburne star in “Standoff.” (Saban Films)

To pull off a premise like "Standoff," in which a ruthless assassin and a suicidal war vet are deadlocked in a battle of wits, everything is dependent upon smart, spare scripting and a firm grip on visual tension.

Unfortunately in the hands of writer-director Adam Alecca, this overly talky, slackly executed game of cat-and-mouse comes off as cheesy rather than chilling.

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When a 12-year-old girl named Bird (Ella Ballentine) inadvertently snaps a photo of the cold-blooded hit man (Laurence Fishburne) in action, she flees for her life, taking refuge on the second floor of a half-empty house where distraught Carter (Thomas Jane), hurting over the death of his young son, is composing a farewell note to his estranged wife.

Meanwhile, the killer, known as Sade, will not stop until he eradicates all witnesses, but, with both men low on ammo and separated by a single flight of creaking stairs, they're forced to resort to a little psychological warfare.

Taunting each other with hackneyed trash talk like "This is the Wild West, son!" (it's actually northern Canada), it's a wonder poor Bird doesn't go screaming back downstairs begging for mercy.

At the end of the very long day, not even Fishburne's dependable gravitas is able to pummel this stagy gab-fest into submission.

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'Standoff'

MPAA rating: R, for strong violence and language throughout

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: AMC Burbank 16. Also on VOD

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