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Stand Alone
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Film Difficult to 'Stand'"
1 stars

One of those lackluster New World pictures that bombed and contributed to the studio's demise.

It's a crying shame the rock-bottom crime picture Stand Alone is so direly rotten for it wastes the considerable talent of that phenomenal character actor Charles Durning in one of his few leading roles. Playing Louis Thibadeau, a World War II veteran who was decorated by General MacArthur himself, Durning is his usual appealing self and lends the proceedings a decent deal of humanity which it in no way deserves; a sixty-two-year-old Los Angeles retiree, Louis's bravura military service is well known in the community, with his best friend, Paddie (Bert Remsen), owner of a diner Louis regularly frequents, recounting to everyone who will listen how a wounded Louis once was trapped in a cave and wound up killing five well-armed enemies using just a bayonet. Louis is proud of his service, and he has a remote-controlled toy tank he plays with his grandson in the backyard - the thing even can shoot bullets that can shatter windows. On one unfortunate day, three Mexican drug dealers execute a man in the diner, with Louis being wounded in the arm as he dives for cover; a pair of manipulative detectives urge him to go through mug shots and then a police line-up to identify the culprits knowing perfectly well their witness will be putting his neck on the line. Louis wants to do the right thing, but a longtime friend of his, a public defender, Kathleen (Pam Grier), tries to discourage him from doing so, emphasizing the culprits are not your usual street punks - they're "cocaine cowboys" notorious for slaughtering not just those who've wronged them but their entire families as well. That's it for the story. The movie must have been pitched to studio heads as a "senior-citizen Death Wish" but it has none of the nervy energy of that Charles Bronson classic; rather, it's glacially paced and riddled with logic loopholes - if the killers are so concerned about a living witness, why didn't they go ahead and execute Louis in the diner when they had the chance; and later on down the line how does Louis identify the killers' van parked downtown when from what we were shown he never saw what vehicle they were driving when they split from the diner? For material that isn't exactly complex and couldn't be more formulaic, Stand Alone makes a lot of basic mistakes even a quintessential hack could've avoided. And the violent finale, with our hero making a final stand at his home with all sorts of booby traps set, is puerile and prolonged to the point of inertia. Neither the director Alan Beattie (whose only other feature-length effort was the murky horror travesty Delusion and can't frame a shot to save his life) nor the writer Roy Carlson (making a dreary debut) has any discernible talent to speak of; and though two impressive cinematographers, Tom Richardson and Tim Suhrstedt, are credited, Stand Alone is mangy-looking from start to finish. Durning was wonderfully exuberant three years prior in a dynamite song-and-dance number as a weasel of a Texas governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas which garnered him a well-deserved Oscar nomination, and gosh knows there isn't a movie he hasn't helped just by showing up, but Stand Alone is so far beneath him it's a miracle he even bothered to have the artistic energy to show up on the set with his specious dialogue memorized - it must have been akin to a doomed man willingly walking the plank. Here's hoping in the future Durning realizes a juicy supporting role is far preferable to a nothing of a starring one. Chock-full of startling ineptitude, this mendacious movie is to cinema what the Edsel was to the automobile.

Skip it.

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originally posted: 10/25/20 06:54:51
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  01-Sep-1985 (R)



Directed by
  Alan Beattie

Written by
  Roy Carlson

  Charles Durning
  Pam Grier
  James Keach
  Bert Remsen
  Barbara Sammeth

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