No matter how hard they work, Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, and John Travolta can only star in so many direct-to-VOD thrillers a year, so someone has to pick up the slack. Guy Pearce is that someone in Disturbing the Peace, a cheap, shoddy action movie from director York Alec Shackleton, whose only previous feature (2018’s 211) was, of course, a Nicolas Cage thriller. Perhaps because he hasn’t yet descended quite as deeply into the direct-to-VOD world, Pearce at least seems to be giving it his best effort as a small-town Texas cop who has to fend off a gang of armed robbers taking over his town, but the writing, direction, production values and nearly all of the supporting performances are so dreadful that his efforts are completely wasted.
The movie opens with what’s meant to be a character-defining prologue for Pearce’s Jim Dillon, who’s working as a Texas Ranger when he accidentally shoots his partner during a stand-off with a suspect. Emotionally tortured over his error, Dillon transfers to the small town of Horse Cave, where he works as the local marshal (yes, he’s Marshal Dillon) and refuses to ever carry a gun. When a couple of mean-looking bikers roll into town and start a fight at the local diner, Dillon suspects that something more dangerous is afoot, and he turns out to be correct, as those two are merely a diversion, covering for a whole motorcycle gang that’s come to rob the local bank.
Since Horse Cave appears to have a population of about 10 extras, er, residents, it’s never clear why the gang needs to take over the entire town, kill the state troopers patrolling the highway, and cut off the power, phone lines, and cell service (which they accomplish by cutting a single giant wire) just to get the money from the podunk bank branch. They even have a person on the inside working as a teller, which makes their entire elaborate plan completely redundant. The real point of the plan is to set Dillon up as the lone hero against the gang, so that he can save the town and overcome his personal trauma. There’s a half-formed subplot about the town’s buffoonish mayor planning to fire Dillon, but the redemption arc is sloppy and ultimately pointless.
The small-town siege is a well-worn genre that goes back to classic Westerns, and Shackleton seems to have some ambitions to give Disturbing the Peace the feel of a throwback Western (beyond just the Gunsmoke reference), from the cowboy hats on Dillon and his only deputy to the horse that Dillon inexplicably rides to confront the bad guys during a climactic moment, despite the ample availability of cars along every street. Shackleton makes a big deal out of Dillon detouring back to his own house in the middle of the siege so he can pick up his old service weapon from his Texas Ranger days (which, for some reason, he keeps in a glass case along with his old badge and some extra bullets), even though he discarded a perfectly good gun he grabbed from one of the robbers just a couple of scenes earlier.
The hokey tone might work if any of the actors aside from Pearce and Devon Sawa (giving an amusingly broad villainous performance as the gang’s leader) could deliver a single line convincingly, or if any of the dialogue in the script by Chuck Hustmyre sounded even remotely genuine. And the terrible writing and acting might be forgivable if Shackleton (who shoots the whole movie in an ugly, harsh, overlit visual style) could stage even a single effective action sequence, but despite using the entire town as his backdrop, he fails to place characters in any kind of coherent spatial relationship to each other at any time. They might as well spend the entire movie just shooting into thin air.