Director Nick Leisure’s small-scale hostage thriller, A Clear Shot, takes off with a crime just moments away, as four armed Vietnamese boys arrive to a packed electronics store with the intent insofar of taking hostages and imposing their will. Over time, their seeming façade is slowly stripped away as the police look into the suspects, and with Sacramento Police Departments’ top hostage negotiator negotiator Rick Gomez (Mario Van Peebles) front and center.
Drawing on its historic prevalence dating back to a real-life 1991 incident in Sacremento, California, A Clear Shot, goes out of its way in flashbacks to flesh out a more humane underpining centered on the Nguyen brothers – Loi (Hao Do), Long (Tony Dew) and Pham (Kevin Bach), and fourth member, Cuong (Dang Tran). The family melodrama here is met halfway with an arc that follows Gomez as he struggles to mitigate the uneasy politics of both the hostage takers led by Loi, and that of his own colleagues, including Sheriff Todd (Michael Balin) who is slightly more concerned with his own career prospects.
Peebles is the pointman in A Clear Shot as Gomez, whose job at this point in time comes with an air of baggage. His only reprieve, when he’s not hiding from colleagues to take a swig, is his somewhat frictious levity with detective Kappy (Marshal Hilton), and uniformed officer Advencula (Jes Meza). You get the notion things would be much easier if the politics of their work wasn’t so prevalent.
Apart from the film’s political elements, the film’s bigger flashpoint is the immigrant struggle as the story unravels. The flashbacks recur in piecemeal fashion throughout the plot, setting up the film’s emotional third act confrontation between Gomez and the hostage takers. The supporting cast themselves contribute greatly to the story, including actress Sandra Gutierrez in one of the film’s most intense third-act moments.
A Clear Shot isn’t without a few of its stumbles along the way, which bode moreso as nitpicks in terms of logic and common sense in the film’s script. To the film’s credit, however, it doesn’t take precedence over its execution in terms of drama and storytelling, and for that matter, tells an often gripping and compelling hostage tale with a deeper message to the film’s purpose.