Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 17th, 2009
One soul at a time.
I'm usually hard on these Christian movies, not because I harbor antagonism towards the faith; quite the opposite. As a believer, it is really irritating to watch sub-par Christian art. Will this prove the exception?
Ving Rhames (Con Air) headlines as Pastor Armstrong Cane, an ex-convict who just got a off a 15-year stretch for manslaughter. While in lock-up, Cane came to Christ and made himself a pastor. Now that he's out, his mission is to transform his father's inner-city church into a thriving place of worship, and perhaps positively affect the surrounding hellhole of a neighborhood.
His first project is a small-time drug dealer named Norris (Dwain Murphy), a punk and a half but a kid looking for bigger purpose. Pastor Cane's mission hits a few snags when Norris's wacko dealer boss Blaze demands $5,000 in lost profits and is threatening violence against him to get it.
I am happy to report that the streak of Christian-themed movies that made me sad for the genre has come to an end. Saving God is good: well-acted, smartly paced, realistic and surprising in its plot twists. Apparently, the genesis behind this production began with an airport worker who approached Ving Rhames and gave him the script. Rhames dug it, wanted to make a faith-based feature and brought it to the studio to make the thing a reality. Perhaps it's the clout he's got, or maybe he's such an imposing badass the producers didn't want to mess anything up, but whatever the case, everyone involved brought their A-game.
At first, the story appeared to be on a very well-worn Cross and the Switchblade kind of road and I was already mapping out in my mind how the plot was going to play out. But, again, I was surprised and the film takes some frankly shocking detours. What's worth noting is that these detours weren't contrived loopholes to artificially generate tension. No, what goes down in this movie feels real.
Much of the success for that can be given to the actors who, from Rhames on down, turn in persuasive performances. Rhames talks about his own faith in the extras and that's reflected in his take on Pastor Cane, who becomes more and more nuanced -- and stronger -- in his faith as obstacles arise. As the heavy in the film, Dean McDermott effortlessly pushes the sinister vibe and taps into some melodrama when it's called for. Finally, there's Dwain Murphy, who elicits the sympathy necessary for his spiritual journey. All the pieces fit nicely.
This is still a deeply Christian film, the main aim of which is to present the faith in an accessible, believable way. Again, success. No corners are cut and nothing is left to the imagination as to how committed the filmmakers are to transmitting their theology. We've got tearful confessions, people getting on their knees pledging their lives to Christ, tough epistemological questions are put forward and in the end, despite the big-time challenges, a feeling of hope is tangible as the credits roll.
The disc is a winner, too. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is clean and does the inner-city color scheme well. Extras include deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers, bios and, the highlight, four making-of featurettes that look at the production, cast, spiritual component and location shooting.
OK, so maybe they lay it on a bit thick, especially at the end. If you're not a Christian, the Evangelical sentimentality may not do it for you.
It's the finest explicitly Christian film I've seen in a long, long time.
Not guilty. Hallelujah!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13