Stand Alone (1985)

Stand Alone

This is Walking Tall but with Charles Durning instead of Joe Don Baker, or Bo Svenson, or even Brian Dennehy for that matter. I would love to be able to find out some more information on the production of Stand Alone as the casting of Durning is, on the one hand, mind boggling, yet on the other it’s genius. This could be any elderly person you know, admittedly with a history of conflict and the resourcefulness that comes with that.

Durning plays grandfather Louis Thibadeau, a World War II veteran enjoying his all American retirement. Spending time with his grandson and eating cobbler at the local café run by his old pal. When some big city drug runners threaten his quiet town (that starts with the attempted theft of some donuts,) putting Durning in hospital and his family at risk, Durning takes up arms to stand up to them, on his own. Pam Grier plays against type as a lawyer and old pal of Durning’s, furthering the case and offering advice. Grier is a very welcome addition to the film, however, there is a mid-film lull as she spends a lot of time traipsing around the affected parties, putting things together instead of the film delivering what we are all looking for, Charles Durning doing Rambo.

Confusingly, Pam Grier provides support to Durning in his lone stance against the rascals. However, the title of the film lies more with the advice of police, family and friends for Durning to give an exaggerated statement that would put the foes behind bars and let the powers that be do their job. As a man of impeccable morals, this does not sit right with Durning and he knowingly awaits the retaliation.

Durning is such a fantastic actor he could sell anything, and whilst he does not possess the agility or pecks of Charles Bronson or Burt Reynolds he still comes across as a believable badass. It takes a while for Mr Thibadeau to find his courage again, however, leading up to the finale of the film, Durning faces the lead antagonist and delivers an infinitely quotable line “I am Death, come with me.” You can see the change in Durning’s face as this line is delivered, few actors would be able to pull this off effectively. 

Stand Alone isn’t brimming with action and when the action sequences crop up prove to be quite light. Additionally, things aren’t terribly violent as it feels more like The A-Team than Death Wish III. However, a vigilante movie is always an enjoyable watch and Durning makes this a much more unique and believable movie. 

Where the film falls was the lack of time spent with the antagonists. They are referred to frequently and we see them here and there, however, no time is given to their story save for a few lines of dialogue between the lead characters. Even they

Additionally, the decision to have the score performed entirely on a cheap organ does overshadow what is a modestly enjoyable thriller. Moments sound faintly like Witness, however, the musical design doesn’t quite match the grandeur of that organ based soundtrack. Post climax moments as the organ attempts to emulate bugle call for victory sounds incredibly tacky.

Director Alan Beattie only directed two feature films in his career and focused more on producing the likes of Dwayne Honston in The Rundown and 1993’s very memorable The Wrong Man. The film was the debut feature of writer Roy Carlson, who also wrote the aforementioned The Wrong Man as well as the fondly remembered China Moon before, unfortunately, calling it quits.

If you are looking for a lightweight Walking Tall, Death Wish or even First Blood then you could do worse than Stand Alone. Initially, it’s a bit of a giggle, however, you will eventually get on-board with Durning’s leading performance and he’ll win you over, even if the film hasn’t too much else to reward you with.

There are a few posters and video box images out there, however, the third poster here, which I can only find a potato quality version on an Ebay listing, is the most absurd. There are no explosions, car wrecks and Durning never dons a denim jacket…


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