Noted urban music video director Nick Leisure (B-Smooth, E-gypt, Carla Flemming) fronts his third feature film (the urban comedies of 2011’s The Lot, 2016’s Janitors) with this gritty, Mexican-produced crime drama inspired by the real life, 1991 Sacramento Hostage Crisis at a Good Guys! electronics store; the event holds the unfortunate distinction as one of the worst police shootouts—and largest hostage situations—in U.S. history. (You can read the truncated version of those events on Wikipedia.)
It’s just another shopping day at the outdoor Florin Mall in Sacramento, California, when four young Vietmanese gunmen storm the Good Guys! electronics store.
The Sacramento P.D calls in their top hostage negoiator, Rick Gomez (Mario Van Peeples), who butts heads with the politically arrogant Sheriff Todd (the excellent and new-to-the-acting-scene Michael Balin) and a trigger happy SWAT Commander (Rafael Siegel) who’s ready to storm the building.
Inside, Loi (Hao Do, in his feature film debut) tries to calm Long (Tony Dew, in his leading man debut), his violence-prone older brother who, if he doesn’t get his ransom money and transport back to Vietnam, will kill the hostages (featuring Glenn Plummer)—including himself and Loi.
As Gomez works to defuse the deadly situation, he comes to realize he’s not dealing with desperate men, but confused boys (who want to trade hostages “for body armor like Robocop”) venting their frustrations at their maligning family, society, and the country. Courtesy of the social and political arrogance boiling inside and outside the store, Gomez’s futile efforts soon digresses into a national tragedy—and alters young Loi’s life, forever.
The marquee names on taunt low-budgeter that inspires us to hit the big red streaming button are Mario Van Peebles and Glenn Plummer. Fans of the USA Network’s Suits know Plummer from his starring role as Leonard Bailey, as Sheriff Vic Trammel on FOX-TV’s Sons of Anarchy, and Timmy Rawlins on NBC-TV’s ER; sci-fi buffs remember Plummer for his roles in Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days (1995) and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow (2004). As for Mario Van Peebles: we’ve diligently followed his career since his starring role in Jaws: The Revenge; newer Mario fans know him from his recurring roles in the TV series Z Nation and Superstition. Of course, Peebles and Plummer—along with their unknown support cast—deliever the goods.
Produced at a low-budget indie cost of just over a million dollars, A Clear Shot has everything going for it: The set and production design, along with its cinematography by DP Jorge Roman (2017’s Larceny starring Dolph Lundgren), is excellent. In addition, Leisure’s tight direction works wonders against its restrictive budget and his supenseful script takes the viewer deeper than the usual Stallone (Cobra) or Willis (Die Hard) hostage-action flick; no Dennis Hooper villaneous, dick-swingin’ hysterics (Speed) need apply here. Leisure’s pen took the time to the explore the psychology; the “why” of what drove four confused men to commit such a heinous act, also while exploring the political, ego-driven hierarchy of law enforcement.
While A Clear Shot is less action-bombast and more dramatic-introspective, Leisure’s crafty eye reminds me of the working-against-the-budget skills of Steven C. Miller’s oeuvre of morally-screwed characters in the action frames of First Kill (2017, starring Bruce Willis), Arsenal (2018, Nicolas Cage), and Line of Duty (2019, starring Aaron Eckhart).
Making its theatrical debut in Los Angeles last October, A Clear Shot will be available across all of the usual VOD, PPV, cable, and streaming platforms in the U.S on June 6, 2020. You can watch Nick Leisure’s video catalog, along with some interviews and behind the scenes footage from A Clear Shot, on his official You Tube page. You can also learn more about Leisure’s development as a storyteller in an extended interview courtesy of ESPN TrueHoop Network’s Cowbell Kingdom on You Tube.
Nick Leisure’s got game—and a bag o’ chips. If he can accomplish a film like A Clear Shot with a little over a millon dollars, then the sky’s the limit for Leisure’s future in Hollywood. And I wait in anticipation for his next film. Leisure sat down with Sacramento’s ABC 10 News to discuss the film back in July 2019.
Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.