The neo-western “Disturbing the Peace” builds to one spectacular image: a laconic lawman on horseback, riding down a modern small town’s main street, brandishing a shotgun and chasing a motorcycle-riding thug. It’s entirely possible that the movie’s star, Guy Pearce, signed on to this project just for that one shot.
But while Pearce is typically superb as the hero — a self-doubting U.S. marshal named Jim Dillon — the film itself is otherwise utterly unremarkable. The combination of stiff, overwritten dialogue and flatly functional action sequences wastes a good lead performance.
Director York Alec Shackleton and screenwriter Chuck Hustmyre don’t spend a lot of time on the setup. After a flashback to Marshal Dillon (yes, “Gunsmoke” fans, Marshal Dillon) failing to save his partner during a hostage situation, the movie jumps straight to the present, where Jim is shaken out of his sullenness by the arrival of a biker gang that has cut off his town’s communications and is terrorizing the locals.
In the tradition of “High Noon” and “Walking Tall,” “Disturbing the Peace” sets up the big moment when the marshal will overcome his obstacles and exact a righteous justice. But the filmmakers seem so anxious to get to that part that not much else of consequence happens between the intro and the climax. Shackleton and Hustmyre have left out all the nifty twists and narrow escapes that put the thrills in a thriller.
Alas, one cool horse does not a movie make.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Starts Jan. 17, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; also on VOD