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‘The Standoff at Sparrow Creek’ (review)

Produced by Dallas Sonnier,
Johnathan Brownlee,
Sefton Fincham,
Adam Donaghey, Amanda Presmyk

Written and Directed by Henry Dunham
Starring: James Badge Dale, Chris Mulkey
Brian Geraghty, Patrick Fischler,
Robert Aramayo, Happy Anderson

 

In this low-budget thriller, a militia group meets in secret after they hear about a deadly police shooting that will certainly be blamed on them.

When they realize some of the gear in their locked warehouse is missing, it’s up to ex-cop Gannon (James Badge Dale) to interrogate his fellow militia to get to the truth.

One of them has to confess or they will all go down for this crime.

And the men — hunters, ex-Klan members and social misfits — are getting less and less concerned with whether the confessor is the actual culprit.

A bunch of desperate men lying low in a warehouse after a crime can’t help but recall Reservoir Dogs (especially when everyone isn’t who they seem to be), but this film isn’t anywhere near as flashy as Tarantino’s debut. It’s not trying to emulate Tarantino’s punchy dialogue or pop-culture references, happily. It’s a more spare, actor-driven tale that could easily be staged as a play.

It’s a great role for Dale, who is very often the best thing in any film he’s in.

As the chosen interrogator who faces off with the men one on one, he employs a number of techniques to catch them off guard. In his best moments, he’s channeling brainy Frank Pembleton — the detective who could wring a confession from just about anyone in “the Box” on Homicide: Life on the Street — and Jack Bauer from 24, who never had time for such niceties. (Dale, by the way, was Bauer’s sidekick Chase in Season 3 of 24.)

Clocking in at a lean 88 minutes, this clever thriller is loaded with twists, but relies more heavily on dialogue than violence, showcasing a number of character actors who rarely get top billing.

That’s not to say it’s on the same level as Reservoir Dogs, 24 or Homicide, but it is a well-executed exercise in stripped-down filmmaking.

If you wished that that endless shootout scene (also featuring Dale) in Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark had been more of a psychological one-on-one between cop and criminal, this is the film for you. (If you’re looking for an over-the-top shoot-em-up in a warehouse, watch Free Fire.)

Rating: 3 out of 5

 

 

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