Liberty Stands Still (Kari Skogland, 2002)
[originally posted 11Nov2002]
This movie, whose US run was a stint at the Palm Springs Film Festival, is hard evidence that even if you’re on the A-list, they still won’t release everything you make. Wesley Snipes heads up this thriller, backed by B-listers Linda Fiorentino and Oliver Platt, and still the biggest market it played was Italy. (Its Japanese release was also limited.)
Snipes stars as Joe, a disenchanted guy with a sniper rifle and a chip on his shoulder. Through a series of not-so-subtle machinations, he traps the heiress to the company that manufactured the rifle (Fiorentino) and has her handcuff herself to a hot dog cart containing a very large bomb in LA. The film’s remaining eighty-six minutes (it’s ninety-six minutes long) cut between the growing bond between hostage and sniper and the hostage’s various attempts to get help.
The above sounds like a setup for a movie that beats one about the head and neck region with a gun control message and has nothing deeper for the average viewer. Such is not the case; Skogland does a decent enough job of keeping the gun-control rhetoric to a minimum and in believable places. The message is still a little overpowering, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. The pace is a bit slow for an action/suspense film, but once you’re in the proper position, what is there to do, really, but wait? (Perhaps the best way to approach this movie is as a combination of the overly preachy John Q. and the as-yet-unreleased Phone Booth.)
Snipes takes the same deadpan approach to this character he did with Monroe Hutchens in Undisputed, and minimalism is not the best way for Snipes to go. His best moments are when he’s right on the edge of losing control. They are, unfortunately, too few. Oliver Platt, as Fiorentino’s husband, does a better job here. Unfortunately, he gets too little screen time, and his character is too two-dimensional for him to do much with. What little he can do is worthwhile, however. Fiorentino is fine, and as believable as can be given the situation.
All in all, not a bad way to kill ninety minutes. Could have been better, but could have been much, much worse as well. ** ½