'Disturbing the Peace': Film Review

Courtesy of Momentum Pictures
The only thing disturbing is how dull it is.
1/17/2020

Guy Pearce plays a lawman with a tragic past in York Alec Shackleton's small-town standoff.

A former Texas Ranger who's sworn off firearms must save his small town from a gang of murderous thieves in Disturbing the Peace, a shockingly dull cop flick by snowboarder-turned-director York Alec Shackleton. Taking a role his fans will wish he'd passed up, Guy Pearce at least holds the viewer's eye here, maintaining a stiff-spined dignity while his co-stars are merely stiff. The film's apparent desire to channel heartland morality is weirdly undercut by a glib (and unsatisfying) vigilante move at the end, but only the least critical viewers will make it far enough into the pic to add moral confusion to their list of complaints.

Pearce's Jim Dillon ended his career with the Rangers when he accidentally shot his partner during a hostage situation. Ten years later, the man has finally died after years in a coma; Dillon hasn't touched a gun since the accident, despite his new job as a U.S. Marshal in the small town of Horse Cave. See him take down a nogoodnik with nothing but a blackjack, and you just might believe that's a viable stance.

Dillon is sweet, in his undemonstrative way, on a cafe waitress named Catie (Kelly Greyson). Catie's not just a pancake-pusher: She raises horses, preaches sermons in her late father's church (this denomination, evidently, doesn't object to its pastors running around town in half-shirts) and, we'll soon see, can fend off mean bikers in hand-to-hand combat. If only the script gave either of them something interesting to say to each other, this might be a romance for the ages.

About those bikers: Two rumble into town one day, itching for trouble. By the time one is in the back of a deputy's squad car on the way to jail, it's clear the trouble was a diversion. Now a whole gang cruises in, led by Devon Sawa's Diablo — that's "what my friends call me — and my enemies," Mr. Diablo explains. They take Dillon and others hostage, kill a couple of locals to make it clear they mean business, then position themselves around the local bank, intending to intercept an armored truck carrying $15 million.

Things would end right here if not for the implausible heroics of a Horse Cave citizen who plays sniper with only a tarp for protection — yay, Second Amendment! In the confusion, Dillon escapes and starts to plot a rescue.

The one-against-many scenario employed here has worked for countless Westerns and action pictures, but screenwriter Chuck Hustmyre (a retired lawman himself, according to IMDb) has no knack for pacing such stuff: Dillon lays any number of traps to pick off bad guys one-by-one, but the fun of MacGyver-style ingenuity is completely lost here, as is any feeling that Dillon is actually in danger.

Maybe the movie doesn't invest much thought to these booby-traps because it's eager for the moment when Dillon reconsiders his disavowal of firearms. Certainly, Shackleton treats the retrieval of Dillon's old revolver as if he were unearthing a holy relic. (Michael Thomas' stock-heroic score swells with similar reverence at the sight of his Ranger badge.) But the payoff, such as it is, is soured by a needless bit of antiheroics that is poorly staged and jibes with nothing else in the screenplay.

Production companies: Grodnik/Aloe, Wonderfilm Media
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Cast: Guy Pearce, Devon Sawa, Kelly Greyson, Michael Sirow, Barbie Blank, Jacob Grodnik, John Lewis
Director: York Alec Shackleton
Screenwriter: Chuck Hustmyre
Producers: Mary Aloe, Daniel Grodnik, Michael Philip
Director of photography: Curtis Petersen
Production designer: James Wise
Costume designer: Nina Chermak Rosenberg
Editor: Michael James
Composer: Michael Thomas

Rated R, 91 minutes