Blu-ray Review: The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

STUDIO: Image/RLJ | DIRECTOR: Henry Dunham | CAST: James Badge Dale, Chris Mulkey, Happy Anderson, Robert Aramayo
RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $9.96, Blu-ray $12.96
SPECS: NR | 89 min. | Crime thriller | widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

A somber, intense study of macho posturing and paranoia, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek marks an impressive feature debut from writer-director Henry Dunham, who successfully blends elements of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men and Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort into an appropriately intense thriller.

The setting is a small Michigan town where militia member Gannon (James Badge Dale, 13 Hours), a former cop, tries to get to the bottom of a police officer’s murder during a funeral ceremony. In a lumber warehouse, master interrogator Gannon asks fellow militia members to recount the events that occurred leading up to the incident. The underlying fear is that the Feds will halt all militia operations.

It’s deduced that the culprit is someone from this particular militia group.  Could it be the group’s leader (Chris Mulkey, The Purge), a former Aryan Brotherhood member (Happy Anderson, Bright) or a quietly menacing bruiser (Robert Aramayo, TV’s Game of Thrones)? Only the guilty and his AR-15 know for sure.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a dark film, both in look and themes, but it should be lauded for its no-nonsense approach to a realistic crime story, and for taking a rarely seen tour of what likely goes on between militia members. It can be unsettling and tries to be well-rounded even if its characters are not. Interestingly, the film plays down the politics that permeate contemporary militia activity. Still, there is more than enough that’s disturbing…

A promising debut for Dunham, both in the directing and writing realm, Standoff is obviously filmed on a low-budget, and is often propelled by deliberately paced and pronounced dialogue some reviewers have compared the screenplay to David Mamet’s works.

There are definite cult possibilities here, with the film beginning its ancillary afterlife after being well-received on the festival circuit and generating good reviews during its extremely limited theatrical rollout.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.