Emilio Estevez stars as a librarian who finds himself caught in the middle on an act civil disobedience in this emotionally charged drama based on real life events. Written and directed by Estevez, the film features a pretty impressive cast list for such a small production, but is unfortunately let down by a decidedly contrived screenplay.

A group of homeless men decide to occupy the Cincinnati public library when a Midwestern cold snap leaves the city’s emergency shelters at full capacity. Enter Stuart (Estevez), a once homeless librarian who knows first hand what it’s like to roam the streets of Cincinnati during the brutal Midwestern winter.

Still reeling from an earlier confrontation with smarmy district attorney Josh Davis (Christian Slater), Stuart decides to take a stand by allowing the patrons to stage a sitting at the library, and goes as far as joining them. Things quickly spiral out of control when the occupiers finds themselves barricaded in the library and threatened with arrest by the city’s riot police.

The Wire’s Michael K. Williams is excellent as Jackson, the leader of a group of homeless men who pride themselves on looking out for one another. While Alec Baldwin is the sympathetic senior police detective tasked with negotiating with the occupiers. Elsewhere, Gabrielle Union is the implausibly antagonistic local news reporter attempting to get to the bottom of the story.

Estevez presents a film which can’t make its mind up about what story it wants to tell. The actor-turned-director seems far more concerned with pointless details and in the end, you’ll find yourself wondering “why is this not working”?

This robustly acted, well-meaning drama is ultimately let down by a less than perfect story-telling technique. All in all, a mess, but a watchable mess.