This year there have been quite a number of faith-based movies released. Some have been high profile like "Heaven Is For Real" and others have been low on the radar like "Alone Yet Not Alone." Still most of them have shared a quality of talent that makes them acceptable to the movie going community. That is as it should be. Just because a movie is faith-based does not mean it is automatically worth seeing. A "faith-based" film should have to earn its audience just like every other kind of movie.
Take a movie like "Persecuted." This just released movie has been hyped as a faith-based film. Boasting a cast that includes Fred Dalton Thompson and Fox News' Gretchen Carlson, this is a movie that should play successfully with those on the right of the political spectrum and with Christians in particular. Let's hope not, since "Persecuted" is a perfectly awful movie.
The story concerns a charismatic minister named John Luther (James Remar). At the height of his success he is framed for a murder he did not commit. This is done because he did not support a one-size-fits-all freedom of religion bill that is being sponsored by Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison).
Luther goes on the run and tries to find someone to help him disprove this accusation. One of the first people he turns to is his father Charles (Thompson), who is also a pastor (or priest?). Together they make plans to cleanse John's reputation. But while they are doing this, Harrison and his minions are searching high and low for John.
Flaw number one: While John is driving around the Washington, D.C. area no one can seemingly locate him. This is happening even though his picture is all over television and the newspapers. There is such a thing as hiding in plain sight but the freedom he has to travel around without being spotted is ridiculous.
Flaw number two: John Luther is supposed to be a man of enormous charisma and personality. He has created and run a huge worldwide ministry. As played by Remar he is a sulking, low key individual who couldn't influence his dog. Remar has had roles where he had some spunk and spirit but none of that is on display in this movie.
Flaw number three: Nothing in the movie makes any sense. As the story enters its final phase it gets even more bizarre. You walk out wondering if half of the plot was just tossed during the filming.
All of those flaws are fatal and all of them destroy any entertainment value the movie might have had. The acting is atrocious. Remar is not the only one sleepwalking his way through his/her part. Thompson is wooden and Carlson is all glowing Barbie doll. So much for her big screen movie debut. And out of nowhere comes Dean Stockwell, a talented and well thought of actor who has not been on screen lately. Why did he want to return in a lame vehicle like this one!
The movie is rated PG-13 for violence.
Movies like "Persecuted" give faith-based films a bad name. They mention God and Jesus in the dialogue and think that will be enough to draw a crowd. Here's hoping it isn't.
I scored "Persecuted" a sinful 2 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper
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