"Whole Lotta Sole" is the kind of movie that revels in hanging out with eccentric ("quirky") characters in this Irish town. We're first introduced to a couple of young dudes, one of whom, Jimbo (Martin McCann), is heavily indebted to a fearsome local gangster named Mad Dog Flynn (the gravel-voiced perpetual villain David O'Hara). Mad Dog tells Jimbo that unless he gets paid back in a few days, he's going to take Jimbo's infant child (Mad Dog is unable to have kids). Jimbo is clearly flustered and decides to rob the local fish market (which shares the title of the movie) but gets even more flummoxed when he realizes that the fish market is a front for Mad Dog's criminal activity.
There's a whole lot of local "color" in the movie, with a number of the characters referencing the conflict in Northern Ireland and a supporting cast that seems positively sprawling for a movie this tiny. And it is nice to have a real sense of both place and community, when so many comedies are bland and anonymously indistinguishable. DaCosta was a genius casting choice too, not only is she a great actress and totally beautiful, but her addition to the cast suggests the new Ireland, one vibrantly full (and accepting) of immigrants.
The result is a thunderously unfunny mess, anchored by a pair of performances that are screechy (McMann) and completely colorless (Fraser), with the conflict escalating without anything even remotely resembling tension. It's like someone yelling "this is intense!" but you're never actually feeling it. What makes "Stand Off" even more baffling is that it was co-written and directed by Terry George, a man well-versed in the drama of real life (he's directed things like "Hotel Rwanda" and "Reservation Road") and very recent Oscar winner (earlier this year he picked up a little naked gold man for a short film called "The Shore"), who seems to be going for something very different here and not quite making it. The movie is toothless and cute enough that it will easily win over art house audiences who don't like to be challenged or hassled. But everyone else will find "Stand Off" banal and aggravating. [D]
This is a slightly edited reprint of our review from the Tribeca Film Festival.