It begins with Gannon (James Badge Dale), in his mobile home, reports about a shooting on the news, and the sounds of loud gunfire in the distance. The word is that a person in full military gear has opened fire on a police officers memorial service and immediately Gannon begins texting someone. One by one, Gannon, Noah (Brian Geraghty), Beckmann (Patrick Fischler), Morris (Happy Anderson), Keating (Robert Aramayo), Hubbel (Gene Jones), and Ford (Chris Mulkey) meet up at a warehouse. They are a local militia, clearly a group of men pissed off at the world, stocked to the brim with guns, ammo, grenades, and gear. There is only one gun missing and someone in that room is responsible. Who will own up to that? If one person in the militia did this, all will be associated as accomplices. Someone must come clean before they all get taken down, but how do you get a madman to fess up to his killing spree? This is a standoff alright, and none of these men want to crack.
For some viewers, Sparrow Creek won't excite them. This is heavy on the conversation, involving one on one interrogations of each character. Dunham is writing in a style similar to a David Mamet or an Aaron Sorkin. He allows the words do the heavy lifting and the tension stretch till we can't take it anymore. The narrative becomes believable when you have actors that simply look the part. Gene Jones- famous for his work in No Country for Old Men- has a face and voice that feels plucked out of a John Ford western. James Badge Dale, who does a majority of the work, has a leading man look about him, but also a calmness that makes him scary cool. The same goes for the rest of the cast, which is a major reason why I dug this movie.
The third act of The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a bit more of the same, but with each interrogation revealing more, inching us closer to finding out just exactly who it was that went on the angry rampage. It cannot go without mentioning that Dunham does an expert job of directing using his setting as a character. The warehouse is scary, with long dark corridors, bright yellow lit rooms, and subtle glares of street lamps outside. I find it impossible to not recall a movie such as Reservoir Dogs, which might be Dunham's inspiration. Either way, the setting creates an atmosphere that pairs perfectly with the situation, leading to an ending that is equally satisfying and surprisingly tasteful, considering the possibilities of death for these characters.
Movies such as The Standoff at Sparrow Creek are not praised enough these days. The direction and writing from Dunham is excellent. Much like the talents of Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan, I cannot wait to see what Dunham does next. With a strong cast, his powerful writing, and an intense setting that allows us to enjoy the craft of actors that don't get enough credit to begin with; The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is an outstanding thriller.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK
STARRING: JAMES BADGE DALE; BRIAN GERAGHTY; CHRIS MULKEY
DIRECTED BY: HENRY DUNHAM
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek was not what I was expecting in any way shape or form. I am going to chalk this up as a learning experience. Don't always expect a cliched action film. Writer/director Henry Dunham has found a way to round up a who's who of character actors, put them in a warehouse, construct a sharp script, and let the audience see how it unfolds. This is a dialogue driven drama, with little to no action, and yet, it is tense from beginning to end. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a boiling pot, waiting to flow over, and easily one of the more unique scripts in cinema for some time.