Tuesday, June 02, 2020

A Clear Shot: The 1991 Sacramento Hostage Crisis

The Good Guys chain of electronic stores no longer exists, nor does the CompUSA chain that was subsequently absorbed by an online retailer, after buying them out. It probably did not help the Good Guys brand much when one of its stores became the location of the 1991 Sacramento Hostage Crisis. The police response—still considered the largest hostage rescue in American history—is thinly fictionalized in director-screenwriter Nick Leisure’s A Clear Shot, which releases today on DVD and VOD.

Lt. Gomez is the hostage negotiator in charge, but the Sheriff is itching to take control and unleash the SWAT team. Gomez is getting pressure from all sides, but the first on the scene Sgt. “Kappy” has respect for his mentor. He also quickly recruits Officer Advencula to his field kitchen cabinet. Unfortunately, the four hostage-takers are twitchy and dangerously prone to internal strife. Of course, there are also children and pregnant hostages to further raise the stakes.

Clear Shot is a sturdily constructed but not especially remarkable police drama. As Gomez, Mario Van Peebles goes all-in with world-weary understatement and it mostly works. Hao Do and Kevin Bach help humanize the reluctant half of the four gunmen, which heightens the sense of inevitable tragedy. However, the real standout is Marshal Hilton, who develops believable buddy-cop chemistry with Van Peebles and shines in what is probably the film’s most memorable scene (you’ll know it when you see it).

Leisure maintains a fair degree of tension, while essentially updating events from 1991 to contemporary day with little impact on the narrative (except maybe the fact that it is getting hard to find a mid-sized brick-and-mortar electronics store). More importantly, it reminds us how difficult it is to resolve a hostage stand-off. Honesty, a lot of people probably think they could be hostage negotiators (just keep them talking, right?), but you should really leave it to the professionals.

A Clear Shot is definitely a presentable film, but unless you re a serious Mario Van Peebles fan, there is no need to make haste dialing it up on VOD platforms. For those who are, it is available today (6/2).