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With: Mario Van Peebles, Jessica Meza, Marshal Hilton, David Fernandez Jr., Lance Woods, Tony Dew, Kevin Bach, Sandra Gutierrez, Hao Do, Dang Tran, Jeanne Carr, Diana Acevedo, Michael Balin, Alex Felix, Justin Nesbitt, Glenn Plummer, Mandela Van Peebles
Written by: Nick Leisure
Directed by: Nick Leisure
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 89
Date: 06/05/2020

A Clear Shot (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crime Store

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a true event, this hostage thriller has a few timely and thoughtful things to say about racial equality, but due to its low budget and its lack of suspense, it eventually misses the mark.

In A Clear Shot, it's a typical day in a "Leisure Guys" electronics store, when four armed Vietnamese men, led by Loi (Hao Do), arrive. They take all the customers hostage, although store clerk Hugh (Lance Woods) manages to evade notice. Burnt-out hostage negotiator Gomez (Mario Van Peebles) is called in.

He enlists the aid of officer Advencula (Jessica Meza), while Sheriff Todd (Michael Balin) tries to undermine his work and simply take out the bad guys with a SWAT team. Meanwhile, Loi has his hands full trying to control the loose cannon on his team, as well as troublesome hostages, like the pregnant Wilma (Sandra Gutierrez). As day turns to night, Gomez realizes he must step into the building himself.

Written and directed by Nick Leisure, A Clear Shot comes from an incident that occurred at a Sacramento Good Guys store in 1991, but the characters still feel like stock cutouts. Van Peebles, while effectively carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, still has to deal with things like his character's beat-up old car and his hidden flask. The sheriff is typically hot-headed and short-sighted, and the bad guys are fairly clueless and somewhat cliched.

The Hugh character, however, is impressive, a cool-headed resourceful African-American who stays on to help the police even after he is rescued and is free to go home. And the multi-cultural cast offers plenty of diversity, and some characters even get to talk about the sad state of racial relations and opportunity in America.

It's a shame, because with just a little more zing and a little more snap, A Clear Shot could have been a crackerjack thriller, exciting and thoughtful at the same time. But as it stands, it's too talky, with too many awkward attempts at humor, and even at only 89 minutes, it feels too slow.

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