A Clear Shot

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
A Clear Shot Movie Poster Image
Diverse but bland hostage thriller has guns, swearing.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 89 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Brief discussion of racial equality/inequality. Other scenes about opportunity (or lack thereof) for immigrants in America. Even if thriller portion of movie doesn't quite work, this will give teens something to talk about.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A lot of characters are either two-dimensional or clichéd, but on plus side, they're hugely diverse and include some positive representations. Hug has flaws but also demonstrates heroism and bravery, even staying behind to help police after he's been cleared to go home. Characters include female professionals of color, such as a cop and a reporter.


Guns and shooting. Character hit with a gun barrel. Bleeding head wound. Threatening with guns. Gun barrel in character's mouth. Dead bodies. Blood related to a miscarriage.


Sexual innuendo. Man wearing only underpants.


Uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "ass," "hell," and "goddamn," plus exclamatory uses of "Christ."


Mention of Panda Express. Event movie is based on took place in a Good Guys store, but here it's called "Leisure Guys."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters drink from flask. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Clear Shot, a thriller about a hostage situation, is based on a real event that took place in 1991. While it includes interesting commentary on racial inequality and opportunity in America and boasts a diverse cast, the movie just doesn't have enough snap to work as a thriller. Expect to see plenty of guns and some shooting, as well as characters being threatened or hit with guns. Some blood is shown, characters die, and a woman miscarries. Language includes multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," and other words. A man is seen in only his underpants, and there's some sexual innuendo. Two main characters drink from a flask, and there's cigarette smoking. Lance Woods and Mario Van Peebles co-star.

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What's the story?

In A CLEAR SHOT, it's a typical day in a Leisure Guys electronics store when four armed men, led by Loi (Hao Do), arrive. They take all the customers hostage, although store clerk Hugh (Lance Woods) manages to evade notice. Burnt-out hostage negotiator Gomez (Mario Van Peebles) is called in. He enlists the aid of Officer Advencula (Jessica Meza), while Sheriff Todd (Michael Balin) tries to undermine Gomez's work and simply take out the bad guys with a SWAT team. Meanwhile, Loi has his hands full trying to control the loose cannon on his team, as well as troublesome hostages like the pregnant Wilma (Sandra Gutierrez). As day turns to night, Gomez realizes he must step into the building himself.

Is it any good?

Based on real events, this hostage thriller has some timely, thoughtful things to say about race and (in)equality, but due to its low budget and its lack of suspense, it ultimately misses the mark. Written and directed by Nick Leisure, A Clear Shot was inspired by an incident that occurred at a Sacramento Good Guys store in 1991, but the characters still feel like stock cutouts. Van Peebles, while effectively carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, still has to deal with things like his character's beat-up old car and his hidden flask. The sheriff is typically hot-headed and short-sighted, and the bad guys are fairly clueless and somewhat clichéd. Etcetera.

Store clerk Hugh, however, is impressive: He's cool-headed and resourceful and stays on to help the police even after he's rescued and is free to go home. The diverse cast offers several positive representations, and some characters even get to talk about the sad state of racial relations and opportunity in America. With just a little more zing and a little more snap, A Clear Shot could have been a crackerjack thriller, exciting and thoughtful at the same time. But, as it stands, it's too talky, with too many awkward attempts at humor. And even at only 89 minutes, it feels too slow.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about A Clear Shot's violence. How did it affect you? How much is shown, and how much is suggested or off-screen? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is alcohol represented? Is it glamorized? What do you think is meant to be implied when Gomez drinks out of his flask?

  • Is the film diverse? Are any cultures underrepresented? Did you notice stereotyping? Are there positive representations?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is to the events that inspired it? Why might filmmakers change the facts in movies based on real life?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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