27 March 2021

The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 4

 The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 4 provides More Favorites

by Kristin Battestella

The Fourth 1973-74 Season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is yet another award winning entry thanks new characters pushing the envelope as beloved friends depart the series. Risque plots, affairs, separations, and age gaps remain focused on the people we love in the first quarter of the season thanks to supporting turns and past guests returning to cause mayhem at home and in the newsroom.

Henry Winkler
(Happy Days) unfortunately, is the odd man out at the little table when there aren't enough chairs in one of my Mary Tyler Moore favorites “The Dinner Party.” WJM's flirtatious Happy Homemaker host Sue Ann Nivens insists on arranging everything for Mary's impromptu party after interviewing a congresswoman at the station, but BFF Rhoda says she thought Mary knew her parties always end in disasters and gruff boss Lou Grant takes too much of the Veal Prince Orloff. Mary thought no one else knew she's a terrible hostess and the sophisticated eating schedule all goes awry, but it's wonderful. Likewise, the surprise party in “Happy Birthday, Lou!” makes our boss as cranky as ever – especially when he gets caught hugging and tickling his wife in the newsroom. Lou hates surprises, leading to one at a time doorbell hi jinks where everyone has their moment of hatred because Lou won't let anybody get sentimental and affectionate. Landlord Phyllis Lindstrom also gets her real estate license in “Cottage For Sale” and wants to sell Lou's house for $50,000 – a tidy sum when he originally paid $18,000! Lou, however, isn't quite pleased, packing but unable to throw anything away and dropping hints to Mary about how miserable he is. The Mary Tyler Moore Show tackles the progress versus sentiment triangle with unique role reversals as Mary supports Lou's memories and Phyllis pushes the escrow. Work and home collide again when Mary's idea to produce a Sunday afternoon talk show in “The Co-Producers” gets off to a bad start because it was actually Rhoda's idea. The two decide to collaborate, but the station insists anchorman Ted Baxter and Sue Ann Nivens host the program, leading to pesky fashion insults, fake compliments, and who's name will be first debates. No one likes anybody's ideas, and Mary is caught in the middle between flattering her stars or laying down the law in another ensemble episode that let's everyone do what they do best. “Best of Enemies,” however, humorously tears the camaraderie when Rhoda lets it slip that Mary lied about being a college graduate on her WJM application. Rhoda doesn't think it's a big deal, Mary's shocked at her insensitivity, and Lou's just glad Mary isn't the only person on earth who always tells the truth. Though such a rift is slightly contrived, The Mary Tyler Moore Show utilizes our ladies' diverging paths for embarrassing apologies and friendly innocence. Lou says the application didn't matter – Mary was right for the job because she said “excuse me” when she bumped into a desk. Who is nice enough to apologize to an inanimate object? Ted's shy girlfriend Georgette represents the audience's fear over not having our besties together, ultimately uniting them with adorable awkwardness about garbage.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show has addressed age relations previously and “Angels in the Snow” is slow to get rolling as Mary frolics but questions if twenty-five is too young to her thirty-three. Our ladies don't fit in with the changing, groovy times, and Mary dislikes the boys in the office telling her this is a youthful mistake. Despite a few great scenes, the twee mellow misses the mark today. “Two Wrongs Don't Make a Writer” also has similar writing classes done better earlier in the series. Mary waxes on writing a novel while Ted ad libs the news in verse. Lou can't kill him on the air because there are witnesses and the physical comedy is superb, but Ted's intrusion in the classroom embarrasses Mary when he steals her story. He's confused over the “write what you know” adage, and the individual moments work in small doses. If you catch this half hour as a one off on television, it's pretty priceless, but in a twenty-four episode season marathon, it's too derivative. This entry does however give us the title of Lou's long gestating war novel: Too Many Foxholes and Not Enough Love. Fortunately, “Better Late...That's a Pun...Than Never” leads to late night giggles and disastrous obituaries when Mary's bemusing send off to Minneapolis' 110 year old citizen is read on the air. Lou's insistence that the news must remain sacred is interesting to hear in this day of sarcastic fakery and social media, and Mary is suspended two weeks without pay for her innocent breach. Initially she accepts this rather than being fired, but she resents being treated like a child and quits over the suspension. It may seem like small potatoes to us today, but taking a stand is not easy – especially when Mary strikes out at subsequent interviews for being qualified but too attractive for the job. For any other program this would be a typical leaving but not really leaving entry, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show provides a delicious breakdown when Mary can't take it and wants to come back, but a new female associate producer has already taken her place. Lou also wants to shake things up with an on location feature in “I Was Single for WJM,” nixing Mary's sixties nostalgia idea in favor of a singles club that's the new rage. Although she'll play a different character in two episodes when Mary moves in Season Six, here guest Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley) is a shy girl at the bar amid all the clichรฉ come ons and awkwardness. The camera crew scares the crowd, too – leaving our ensemble live in an empty bar with dead air to fill in an excellent season finale.

Mary Richards says age is not a big deal, but she likes her short hair, pantsuits, and being an over thirty professional. Mary is an associate producer – she's not going to do all Ted's little jobs anymore and wants more difficult, challenging duties. Though cautious, Mary's excited when her documentary gets great reviews. Her biggest secret, however, is getting home late and pretending not to see a note from Rhoda. She feels silly talking to plants but isn't surprised by obscene phone calls, for her father was a doctor and she's heard those terms. Head cheerleader Mary was at the top of the pyramid and wears Minnesota Vikings shirts, but she gets over the notion of firing someone when the Lothario sportscaster comes on to her in “Hi There, Sports Fans.” Mary asked Mr. Grant for more responsibility, but the firing before the hiring leaves Ted filling in and her working hard to find a replacement – only to be disappointed when all the new sportscaster has to do is read three scores. It's also nice to see The Mary Tyler Moore Show isn't always setting up Mary anymore. She's had proposals, but she's a career woman, end of story. When Mary does briefly date an anchor from the superior Channel 8 in “WJM Tries Harder,” she's jealous at their overwhelming newsroom and embarrassed by her own last in the ratings, laughable little station. She fears her idea to hire college stringers looking for hot tips will backfire if they get the wrong story, but Mary sticks to her guns and for once, WJM gets the scoop. She's tired of people making light of her problems as cute or little when she's miserable, so Mary's going to stand up for herself. Window dresser Rhoda Morgenstern believes Mary's life is a shampoo commercial, but she's looking like a sassy, confident professional herself when not apologizing to her fern or misting the plants in Mary's apartment. Rhoda complains it would take a minute and fifteen seconds to read her old love letters, and the thought almost makes her bored enough to call her mother. At the hockey games, she likes to sit by the penalty box so she can pick up players, and Newman/Redford movies are her favorite because it is two fantasies for the price of one. The Mary Tyler Moore Show uses Rhoda to go for broke in the romance department, for she makes her mother cry by saying the first man already won't be her husband, and the answer to THAT question is when she was 20, and no it didn't hurt at first. Of course, Valerie Harper will soon depart for her own spin off, and parents Nancy Walker and Harold Gould guest star in “Rhoda's Sister Gets Married” as a semi soft launch with a trip to New York for Rhoda's little sister's wedding. Although much of the Morgenstern family history will be retconned on Rhoda, Ida and Martin are offended by the thought of Mary staying in a hotel instead of with them – insisting she sleep on the couch while airing out all the family angst. Rhoda, however, mixes business with pleasure after meeting the grandson of the store owner in “Love Blooms at Hemples.” She's afraid to take a chance or scare him off too soon, and Mary tells her to stop inventing reasons to date beneath herself. At last Rhoda looks happy, classy, and sophisticated as the episode alternates between Mary's office success and Rhoda's romance – permanently defining their individual sitcom paths.

WJM boss Lou Grant blames Mary for telling him an idea was wonderful instead of rotten. He's glad when she has some producing success but annoyed it means he can't ask her to do dumb things like bring him a jelly doughnut or make the coffee. She's excited when he makes her an omelet for working on a Saturday – until she tastes his secret beer ingredient – but Lou's long lunches mean something's wrong in the Emmy winning “The Lou and Edie Story.” He wants to talk to Mary man to man but he can't because she can't call him Lou. He tries to act naturally about seeing a marriage counselor, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show uses the workplace camaraderie to built mature characterizations as Ed Asner puts on a humorous one man struggle. Lou has to get it off his chest, but he can't talk – a drinking middle aged authority grappling with trouble at home for the first time. He takes out his anger on everything from suitcases to fruit instead of saying what needs to be said. Lou doesn't understand Edie's need to know who she is without being someone's Mrs., asking her not to leave until he gets home so the house won't be empty. For a comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show makes a surprisingly tender episode in an era where separations were not dealt with on television. In “Lou's First Date,” Priscilla Morill's (Newhart) Edie is attending an awards dinner with someone else, so Lou intends to impress her with a great date himself. Unfortunately, he's mistakenly set up with a grand, but old, old lady, and Ed Asner's physical comedy shines in superb looks and reactions as exasperated Lou is nervous, embarrassed, and finally able to respect his classy date. A bottle of beer and Oreo's is Lou's idea of a single man's breakfast in “Just Friends,” so Mary brings him cereal, wake up calls, and does his laundry. Lou intrudes until she agrees to spy on Edie, who misses Lou but doesn't want him to think a dinner invitation means they are getting back together. Of course, he acts like everything is how it was, unable to accept the titular concept as The Mary Tyler Moore Show once again uses frank wit to address the shocking notion of the friendly post-divorce. In “Lou's Second Date” Rhoda attends an awards dinner with Lou, and they actually have a good time because there is no pressure or awkwardness. Sue Ann is jealous, however, and the station loves to gossip. Rhoda and Lou resent the implications, but neither is going to cancel dinner or miss a good hockey game because others ruined it for them.

Ted Knight's cream soda drinking anchorman Ted Baxter brags when his weekend is “sin-sational” and wants to announce it on the air but objects to reporting live on the scene without his sport coat. He hates when everyone knows something before him and Ted's jealous when he isn't asked to narrate a documentary about chimps – and the chimp gets the last word on him. Ted turns to sportscasting to make himself a renaissance man and tries wearing ridiculous platform boots, but he thinks he can't be taken seriously because he's too good looking. He also thinks he can put a drop of black hair dye in gradually for seven days and no one will notice the difference. When the League of Women Voters wants Ted to run for city council in “We Want Baxter” Lou drinks and Murray gets ulcers, but Phyllis insists he is an honest, controllable candidate. Lou points out the conflict of interest, but Ted sincerely thinks he can do some good. He also lost a school election and wants to prove himself, and a few goofy campaign ideas make Ted seems witty – until he forgets to register so he can vote. Ted's more shocked when his dad visits in “Father's Day,” and pretends he has lost his voice to not speak to his father. The Mary Tyler Moore Show balances the serious abandonment questions with humor as Ted shows off his fake autographs from famous folks and tells his father about that infamous 5,000 watt Fresno start. Despite the tender changes in Ted, he still struggles to sign the check when his father asks for a loan. Ted has Monopoly in his dressing room because he works hard and plays hard, too. He hires Rhoda to design his awards campaign in “Ted Baxter Meets Walter Cronkite,” for bribing the judges last year didn't work. When Ted finally wins, he's so overcome by the recognition and approval it almost bamboozles the titular meeting of his hero. Georgette encourages Ted to mend things with his dad and supports all he does, but Georgia Engel's innocent girlfriend doesn't want him to get into politics or become successful if that means he has less time for her. She takes shorthand notes for his production meetings, adding adorable little asides when she disagrees. Unfortunately, Ted takes her for cheap drive thru dinners and offers a lame mouth to mouth explanation for his dalliance in “Almost a Nun's Story.” Her one woman retellings of Ted' shenanigans are endearing – Georgette is tired of crying over him and we agree she should live it up and have fun for herself. When unhappy Georgette sees men who don't compare to Ted, she decides to do something good and join a convent, leading to some great mistaken flirtations with an unconventional nun as Ted realizes he misses Georgette. Now she gets to lay down the law on their relationship.

The late Cloris Leachman's landlord Phyllis Lindstrom loves to point out people's nerve when they stick around after a humiliating experience. Phyllis strikes out and wonders if she lost her charm, but after failing at writing and sculpting, she knows she was born to sell real estate. She's also too much of a real woman and that threatens men, so she has her husband Lars trained to call home every fifteen minutes because their relationship is built on trust. Her naive denials about her marriage make for an Emmy winning scene stealing performance, but of course, the Season Four premiere “The Lars Affair” introduces Betty White (The Golden Girls) as The Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens. In front of the camera she is all about getting the stains out, a sweet and helpful persona contrasting her behind the scenes maneater tendencies and passive aggressive corrections. Her crew hates her, too, even unplugging her oven to ruin her show. The unseen Lars, however, gives Sue Ann a ride home, and the all night body shop repair excuses and collars cleaner when he comes home evidence is all the newsroom gossip. Viewers don't see the scandal, of course – delectable performances carry the innuendo – but the final blows between the ladies come down to chocolate and a ruined souffle. The Mary Tyler Moore Show combines the at home and show within a show, threatening Sue Ann to keep the under the sheets away from her public image, and it's fascinating how when the series started, Mary couldn't be a divorcee and now we have wickedly humorous adultery. Murray Slaughter hates when he's in a Monday mood and humming Mary is just so chipper, but Gavin MacLeod always has delicious zingers for Ted. The anchor wants to talk man to man with his writer, but Murray says they are one short. Once again, he has little else to do but jab from his desk, and a few family mentions seem inconsistent, but Murray's fifteen year old daughter takes a summer job at the station in “I Gave at the Office.” Murray doesn't want to be one of those parents, but the covering for her does come between Murray, Mary, and Lou. It's a little reminiscent of previous incompetent hires running amok in the office, but Lou can't swear, Ted's playing matchmaker, and it's interesting to see how a small change effects the entire newsroom dynamic. If they ever carpooled, Murray says he, Lou, Mary, and Gordy would be in one car with Ted in another, and yes, weatherman Gordy is referred to often but only appears in one episode this season when he replaces Ted as an anchorman. Gordy sarcastically tells Ted he's more content with the weather, but after his troubles, Lou gives Gordy a raise so WJM won't lose him. Of course, this is John Amos' last appearance until a guest spot in Season Seven – after Gordy has gone on to be quite successful. Chuckles the Clown also makes a zany appearance when Jerry Van Dyke returns for “Son of “But Seriously, Folks”.” The writer has quit the station for freelance but isn't doing well and applies for a news writer position so he can strike up again with Mary. She feels guilty that he likes her more and their working together becomes increasingly difficult thanks to a terrible idea to film the news in a new behind the scenes casual format hysterically mixed with drunken disappointment and disastrous rejection.

The new Year Four credits for The Mary Tyler Moore Show are a buzz with elevators, city high rises, and working girl content when Mary's not washing her mustang and not enjoying the inflated price of beef. Such solo outdoor scenes and workplace shots reiterate how our series is growing up compared to the tacky colors and grandma looking doilies on The Happy Homemaker set. Mary's apartment is spruced up too with more plants, tables, chairs, and a new bookcase wall visually expanding the space – even if the location doesn't make a lot of sense when we see more use of the house stairwell. There's fondue, vintage popcorn makers, and nostalgic charm like removing your earring to talk on the rotary phone. Far out boutiques sell metallics and platform boots while bell bottoms, wide lapels, and wild plaid pants match the chunky bracelets and brooches as each character is firmly suited in his or her own swanky style. Newcomers step in to The Mary Tyler Moore Show without missing a beat as viewers say goodbye to beloved players, and Season Four continues the trail blazing, award winning success with laughter for all.

19 March 2021



Possessor is a Sophisticated Sci-Fi Parable

by Kristin Battestella

Writer and director Brandon Cronenberg's (Antiviral) 2020 British/Canadian co-production Possessor is a stylish science fiction tale combining unethical psychological dilemmas and invasive horror as assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) jacks into unwitting hosts with the help of handler Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to orchestrate elaborate murder/suicides and advance their company's billion dollar agenda. Despite difficulties at home, Vos takes on their next big contract – killing data mining mogul John Parse (Sean Bean) and his daughter Ava (Tuppence Middleton) under the guise of Ava's boyfriend Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott). Unfortunately, glitches and a degrading time window make this takeover complicated – blurring the lines between host and possessor.

Bloody plugs squish into the scalp and Possessor immediately catches the audience with bittersweet tears and gunshots breaking the silent luxury. Medical awakenings lead to vomiting and severed links with the host, but there are no lingering side effects or anomalies – supposedly. Memory debriefings and artifacts from childhood help our assassin adjust before returning to the modest home and family, but the dinner conversation is a lie, detached just like the news reports of the preceding crime. The scientific chats, however, are cold but honest, for one can't really bring these experiences home. Surveillance begins for the next project alongside practicing mannerisms, abducted subject prep, and scheduling details. Three days and no room for error adds ticking clocks and technicalities to the personal amid the fantastic crimes and dual performances. After spending time in our assassin's point of view, now Possessor has her inside the man who will unwitting kill his lover for someone else's corporate gain. Exterior spying and interior simulations layer the invasive intimacy as multiple sensations and minutia over stimulate our host – leading to fractures in the mind and body connections. Friends and lovers blur as hiding in a social situation is easier than facing the coupled dishonesty. The woman in a man's body reversal acerbates the rough sex and suppressed consciousness as the slow burn suspense and initial hesitations culminate with kills both calculated and messy. Editing matches the close quarters blows while brutal scenes play out – taking their gory time without special effects exaggeration. Glitches make retrievals difficult as the violence and science go wrong and unforeseen problems like will power blend our personalities together. We are with both characters at the same time, but in set up fixers, and the need to survive question who is dominant. Possessor enters a mental surreal as the personas fight each other, one donning the distorted mask of the other as corrupted memories and homicidal guilt bleed together. The killings intrude on the home and family sacred with sad but disturbing predatory revelations, and the psychology, performances, and physicality merge as the cruel turnabouts come full circle.

Vos says she's fine but we know she's not, and Andrea Riseborough (The Devil's Mistress) is pale and sickly, rehearsing being herself and pretending to be glad after a work trip. She wants to take time off and fix her marriage, but Vos is detached even during intimacy and the use of Tas at home but Vos at work shows her conflicted identity. It's easier to be someone else than herself, but the complications are increasing and Vos chooses more violent weapons like knives and fireplace pokers over easier guns. She lies that there are no disruptions yet spies on her family as her subject, realizing the choice between work and home that's holding her back. Unwitting host Christopher Abbott (First Man) as boyfriend cum killer Colin Tate is initially a sassy lover, but he makes mistakes, hesitates, and loses control as Vos emerges. Tate is weakening outside but fighting in their mind, forcing conflict as Possessor presents two people playing the same character. We feel for both in this fascinating twofer because they need each other to survive and end their torment but their relationship will never be mutual. Swanky, hobnobbing, corporate big wig Sean Bean (Sharpe), however, and his saucy daughter Tuppence Middleton (Dickensian) fight about her dating a nobody like Tate. Parse has elaborate parties but living it up is not enough and he's taking his data mining tech to the next level. Both he and the seemingly devoted Ava treat Tate as the latest plaything, but they have no way of knowing Vos' influence – leading to disturbing payback. Initially handler Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) seems to care, too, debriefing Vos and reclining beside her during the assassinations with tips and tech support. A former assassin herself, Girder wants Vos to eventually replace her, but she thinks her star performer would be better off if she didn't have real world attachments. Girder sends in a fixer to assure this critical contract is fulfilled – doing what she has to do to see the mission accomplished.

Exotic hotels provide futuristic mood thanks to red lights and a reflective black sheen. Rather than excessive CGI sci-fi world building or wasting time with future city skylines and rad technology, smart use of color and mod chairs in the otherwise sparse briefing room offer enough cool without contemporary omnipresent technology to eventually date Possessor's timeless concepts. Calibrations and scientific dossiers let us know the dangerous perimeters while jack ins, the melting away self, and flashes of the takeover invoke a seventies science fiction arty as one person molds into another. Possessor is shocking but pretty with blurs, distortions, dual echoes, and overlays showing the inside another person's mind intimate. Practical effects and in camera action create an audience tangible to the within within dilemmas. Classic cars are both a sign of wealth and a visual throwback while vaping instead of smoking also feels niche and elite. Grandiose architecture, fresco ceilings, and marble staircases symbolically ascend while blunt gunfire, squishing stabs, and merging pools of blood pierce the senses. Lighting schemes and mirrors allow us to see multiple characters in one at the same time – an eerie but simple self-awareness amid invasive big brother televisions, cameras, and screens paralleling the who's watching whom and who is really in control familiarity. Some enjoy the voyeurism, upping the sex and nudity when they know there's spying while Possessor winks at the cinematic experience itself. Ironically, the censorship between the R and Unrated versions is more about erections then gore, adding intrigue elements regarding women predators versus macho men, ambiguous sexuality, and gender identity. The rental blu-ray also features deleted scenes with extra character details and lengthy behind the scenes conversations, but when I went to buy the elusive Possessor Uncut blu-ray, it was an “only one left” click and my purchase was ultimately canceled. ๐Ÿ˜•

Possessor may be slow for viewers accustomed to science fiction action and high tech in your face cool a minute. The well done gore is brutal yet this is not outright horror for those expecting formulaic scares. The chilling what if invasive is disturbing, and old school touches accent Possessor's bizarre. This looks like one of dad David Cronenberg's (Rabid) films, and that isn't a bad thing. Fine performances carry the science fiction pains, and the personal intelligence and sophistication keep audiences thinking about the consequences long after Possessor ends.

11 March 2021

Disturbing the Peace


Disturbing the Peace isn't bad, it just has to be viewed Hysterically ๐Ÿ˜„

by Kristin Battestella

Former Texas Ranger turned U.S. Marshal Jim Dillon (Guy Pearce) paralyzes his partner in the line of duty and gives up wearing a gun. Ten years later, biker Diablo (Devon Sawa) and his gang ride into Dillon's peaceful Kentucky town to stir up trouble and rob an armored truck – forcing Dillon to take up arms and go old school on horseback to save the day.

The 2020 action vehicle Disturbing the Peace has a lot of real world nonsensical to match its typical, pseudo western premise, and the not thinking the details through shows, relying on convenience, people being stupid onscreen, and underestimating viewers familiar with throwback action yarns. No Kentucky townsfolk have guns handy to fight the bad guys? A deputy radios that he is on his way to the county lock up, but they aren't concerned when he never arrives? Cutting one big wire kills the power, phones, and internet for an entire town? Dialogue has people say one thing then do another while flashbacks show the shooting before talking again tells us why Dillon doesn't carry a gun. The Law compounds the rough housing biker set up by separating and transporting a prisoner rather than doing a good old John Wayne – hold the bad guy in the lock up and brace for a siege. A slow chase to lure away a county sheriff patrol and swap his uniform makes for a meaningless delay alongside a lot of walking to and fro, padding time while the ridiculous direction acerbates all Disturbing the Peace's flaws with constantly in motion camerawork. The on the move pace tries to compensate by being so busy we can't see anything, but instead the audience has no time to stay with the potentially intriguing main character thanks to the superficial, fly by night cheapness. The amateur extras are bad, and that's nobody's fault, but if you need to cut corners, rely on your star. We don't need to see anything about the armored truck before it pulls into town, and bad shooting or unrealistic blood ruins tense hostage moments and threatening countdowns. Possible ways out of the situation are dismissed without every really being addressed when foiled attempts to seek help would show the desperation, and there's no organized plan to fight back. Disturbing the Peace could have been a straightforward tale about one once bad ass but now struggling sheriff saving his town, but the attempt at modern cinematic cool doesn't jive with the man alone eighties action constructs. Civilians have to die before the heist is taken seriously – suspense contrived for the audience rather those in the onscreen crisis. Visuals focusing on guns, flags, and other Americana imply there is some kind of underlying social commentary, but there is none, only marine corps history thrown in to turn a biker in another ultimately useless scene. The bikers should leave when they have the chance, but intercut confrontations and stupid actions compromise what should be the big moment of the movie when our Marshal takes the shot he must make. Fortunately, the bad guys never takeover the police station so Dillon can just go back to it for all the gear he needs – another laughable convenience alongside the repeated shots of several beautiful but unused police SUVS. It's a good thing the church has a ham radio to call for help after the Marshal already saves the day by galloping down main street, which is admittedly pretty cool if you can ignore all the preposterous things happening. 

Well, it's finally happened. Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential, The Proposition) has actually made a bad movie, but it wasn't his fault, I swear. A conflicted U.S. Marshal giving up his gun after a shooting gone wrong sounds like a meaty role. Pearce comes through as always, he walks the walk with salt and pepper rugged and big redneck regalia, but there's no time to linger on Dillon's quandary when the story should be from his perspective. The audience constantly wonders why in the heck he is a U.S. Marshal and not just a town sheriff, and the opening incident should have been ten months ago for much more immediate pain and consequences – rather than ten whopping years of being in law enforcement and never using a gun. I mean, doesn't he have to re-qualify on weaponry from time to time? Dillon says his paralyzed partner never got to hold his kids again, implying this biker incident could be revenge from the now deceased victim's family, but Disturbing the Peace doesn't get that personal. We don't know how Dillon got this backwoods assignment or how he went from being a Texas Ranger to a U.S. Marshal. If he doesn't have roots in town, why couldn't he just be a Ranger on leave passing through who decides to do something about saving people? There were numerous ways to get the head scratching technicalities right while deepening Dillon's backstory. Instead, we have a nice if on the nose moment where he wrestles a gun from a baddie but throws it in the dumpster because at that point, he still thinks he can do things his way. Of course, after a few shaky cam letters, drinks, pills, a mirror, and an old badge, Dillon is over it enough to kill when he doesn't have to as Disturbing the Peace sadly makes his character choices happen to move the plot rather than for true contemplation. Even the movie poster shows our lawman who won't pick up a gun...holding a gun. o_O The Marshal should be able to prove he can arrest the bad guys and provide justice without resorting to a final kill, but Disturbing the Peace treats what should be the biggest part of the picture as an afterthought.

It's bemusing when the irrelevant deputy's name Matt is heard together onscreen with Dillon, hehe, but if the character wasn't there you wouldn't notice the difference. He's a weak sounding board used to reiterate every situation to the audience when killing him off early would have better raised the stakes. It is funny though when the deputy introduces himself to the Marshal over their walkie talkies and Dillon delicious deadpans that yeah, he knows who it is. Devon Sawa (Final Destination), on the other hand, isn't bad as our well spoken biker villain with town history. His one on one scenes with the Marshal are fine and Diablo has researched his targets, but his resentful backstory is given away easily by someone else instead of being a hard hitting revelation. Increasingly preposterous turns hurt the ultimately nonsensical plans, undercutting his psychological talk, on edge crazy, and refusal to go back to prison. The gang goes through all this trouble to rob a bank, then waits for a scheduled armored truck when it doesn't seem like a lot of money split a dozen ways. Brief moments of camaraderie and tattooed creeds aren't enough reason for them to die for Diablo, and every bad guy protests that no one was supposed to die...right before someone inevitably dies. Kelly Greyson's (Woodlawn) Catie could have been cool, but she is a waitress by day and bartender by night who kicks ass when not being a gun toting horsewoman and a midriff wearing minister's daughter who now gives the sermons herself on Sunday – after Dillon's over for a ride, meow. Tough Catie does more than the deputy, but it's all a bit Mary Sue much when one of those elements would suffice. Then again WWE star Barbie Blank is a bank mole who does nothing save for dressing exactly like Catie so the two can have some falling flat cat fight titillation. Catie can't wrestle a weapon from a man but she can take on another woman and save the hostages once the script says so. The sleazy wannabe mayor out to get Dillon is also a whole lot of nothing forgotten as necessary. Like anybody's going to vote for this weasel if he's running against Guy Felicia Exley Leonard Killian Weyland Pearce.

On location filming, Main Street feelings, and on foot around town give Disturbing the Peace a quaint authentic look. Regular townsfolk, big hats, beards, plaid, and big belt buckles invoke Southern charm, but the women are made up as Hollywood unrealistic, canceling out the country mood. The lack of afternoon town bustle is also unlikely, replaced by overhead or long distance montages with old barns, rusty trucks, panoramic silos, trains, and even grass just because somebody had a drone. Rather than adding flair, a few unique camera angles and security camera footage call attention to themselves amid herky jerky camerawork where we can't see anything. Hand to hand fight scenes start cool, but the hits don't seem to have any pain or impact, and there should have been more improvised combat or one on ones if Disturbing the Peace is about not using guns. Instead of gearing up at the hardware store for alternatives, there's only one Macguyver type bomb ploy. No one tries to start a signal fire, strike a match at a gas station, or use explosives, probably because there wasn't enough budget to do so, as the few fiery effects here are poor. Unfortunately, no matter the pistol, revolver, shotgun, or rifle, the gunfire sounds like toy pops or firecrackers. Blood and squibs never match the wounds, kickbacks are nonexistent, automatic weapons with scopes never hit anything, and guns jam because nobody knows how to reload. I couldn't help myself I giggled every time there was a gunshot. Of all the vehicles available, Disturbing the Peace comes down to a scooter getting shot at from a horseback pursuit, but won't the asphalt hurt the horse shoes? Between the minute odd of opening tags and eight minutes of credits, this is really only eighty-two minutes, and the slow as porn scroll gives viewers time to notice the numerous repeated departments and additional personnel – suggesting Disturbing the Peace had more than just the usual re-shoots, somebody tried to fix the production after the fact, and there's probably a lot more footage that we didn't get to see. Was nobody watching the dailies? Did they not have a fact checker or a props master or, you know, Foley?

It's always a bad sign when the viewer is aware action is proceeding just because it should in scene or real world logic be damned. Problematic direction runs Disturbing the Peace into the ground when its star and antagonist were capable of handling the violent potential. Yet somehow, I can't hate Disturbing the Peace because I laughed the entire time. This isn't so bad it's good, but Disturbing the Peace can be an entertaining lark if viewed as inadvertently hysterical. ๐Ÿ™ƒ