Sony // 2011 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 16th, 2011
Witness the power of forgiveness.
Ok...what you got?
Officer Mac McDonald (Michael Joiner) lost his daughter years in an episode of vehicular homicide tragedy and he's harbored deep resentment in his heart since. When he's partnered with Sam Wright (Michael Higgenbottom), an African-American sergeant, these hostilities bubble up and racial tension arises between the two men.
But here's the thing: Sam is also a pastor. As he and Mac grow closer, Sam drops the nuclear God bomb on him and Mac finds his hard, calcified soul start to soften...
I consider myself sort-of an expert in the realm of Christian moviemaking. Over the course of my Verdict tenure, I've imbibed many Gospel-themed movies and found the quality to be all over the place, with most entries hovering around the corny/preaching-to-the-choir side of the spectrum. And this is coming from someone who's part of that choir.
It's a difficult balance to hit, crafting a film that is both well-made and possessing a bit of universal appeal, while not diluting the message. Stuff like Facing the Giants and Fireproof falls short, but there have been a few standouts; objectively well-made movies that are explicit in their gospel proclamations, like Saving God and the remarkable Of Gods and Men.
What do we have with The Grace Card, the latest from Sony and Affirm Films? Something that lands squarely in the middle of that vast scale; a film that's well executed and manages to pump out the Christian message of salvation and forgiveness, without coming across as contrived and overly preachy (though to be fair, you have to expect some preaching).
I like that Mac McDonald is going through something rough and realistic, his marriage on the rocks because of the crap he and his wife are dealing with. The hard life stuff is critical to the success of making a believable Christian film, and I'm not just talking about missing a payment on your Chevy or destroying your computer with a baseball bat to resist Internet porn. Sam Wright is more of the happy-go-lucky guy, but he's supposed to be; he's already answered The Big Question. Still, Sam has his issues and this solidifies the friendship between the two men, the axis on which The Grace Card spins.
Because this relationship works and the circumstances are believable, the film works...mostly. The ending is a bit too overwrought, nice, and neat (though it'll probably draw tears out of some) and the acting is hit-and-miss. However, The Grace Card succeeds at what it attempts to be: an unmistakably Christian film that deals with realistic situations in a non-embarrassing manner.
The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital surround ,and a load of extras including the opening scene of Courageous, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, outtakes, commentary, and a music video.
It's denied entry into the upper echelon, but The Grace Card occupies the B-level tier of Jesus features.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video
* Bonus Footage