‘American Sausage Standoff’ Review: Order the Salad

The far-fetched but hardly distinctive tale told in “American Sausage Standoff” is prefaced by a title card reading “This story is based on fact.” The opening shot is of a man sitting in his car while addressing the audience directly, his soothing, honey-toned voice setting the scene.

The writer-director Ulrich Thomsen nods at Joel and Ethan Coen here, specifically to “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski.” The unfunny and maladroit scenes that follow make one wonder if “the anxiety of influence” also can apply to artists who are, through no fault of their own, doing the influencing.

“American Sausage Standoff” is set in a nearly deserted town called Gutterbee. This self-proclaimed “Cabaret Capital of the West” is overseen by a guitar-picking rabid racist named Jimmy Jerry Lee Jones Jr. As indicated by character names like that, this is a movie that delivers its sociocultural observations with a sledgehammer.

Starr (who, with Thomsen, starred on the TV series “Banshee”) plays Mike Dankworth McCoid, a one-time confederate of Jones who has tired of grotesquely humiliating Asian Americans and running them out of town. (These humiliations are depicted in some detail; the film’s ostensible objection to such actions is sorely undercut by the relish with which they are staged.) Instead, he forms an alliance with the newcomer Edward, a connoisseur of both German sausage and its lore.

Edward is played gamely by Ewen Bremner, but his efforts, like those of the character actor Clark Middleton (who died last year) as a truculent, corrupt preacher, merely demonstrate that commitment will only get you so far with a nothing part. What ensues when Edward and the town’s reactionaries clash cannot be properly called hilarity, and the end product of this dismal film is mostly befuddlement.

American Sausage Standoff
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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