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Case Number 17324

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Mercy Streets

Sony // 2000 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 23rd, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson got a parking ticket on Mercy Street and—you guessed it—no mercy.

The Charge

A life of faith will cross with a life of crime.

Opening Statement

Maybe, just maybe, we're seeing a renaissance of faith-based filmmaking. Could it be that Christian movies can actually be…good?

Facts of the Case

Twin brothers—one a gangster the other a soon-to-be-ordained preacher (both played by David A.R. Smith)—who haven't seen each other for years, accidentally swap lives. The crook is suddenly delivering sermons, wooing the fiancée (Cynthia Watros, Lost), and pilfering money from the collection plate, while the reverend, forced into an illicit con to protect his brother, ends up working for a sleazy gangster (Eric Roberts, The Butcher). Taking wildly divergent paths, the brothers are forced to face their own dark pasts…and ultimately fight each other, while dressed in the same clothes.

The Evidence

I have been very critical of Christian-themed filmmaking in the past. As a God-fearing brother myself, crappy, warmed-over, half-ass movies do the brand great injustice. Whether you consider yourself a believer or not, you have to admit there are compelling themes to be explored when tackling Christ-focused material—redemption, mercy, hope, sacrifice, and all that Sunday School goodness. So when a well-meaning guy gets behind a camera and lays an egg, that's not necessarily slathering on glory for the Kingdom. You know who you are.

Thankfully, I've been sniffing a new trend in this small corner of the home video market. Genuinely Christian movies—that is, flicks which don't shy away from blasting the ins and outs of running with JC—have been noticeably improving. I wasn't terribly impressed with Fireproof, but it was much better than Facing the Giants. Then along comes stuff like Saving God and Faith Like Potatoes, which takes the genre to a new level.

Mercy Streets fits snugly into the latter, hipper, better category of Christian filmmaking, despite the fact it was made nine years ago, putting it ahead of the curve even way back when. This one feels like a legitimate movie. Right away that's a plus. The feel is far from the home-devotional kind of atmosphere that accompanies similarly-themed efforts. And when you add recognizable faces like Eric Roberts, Stacy Keach, and Cynthia Watros, with a quality, dual-role performance from David A.R. Smith, that doesn't hurt.

Setting aside messaging, the story of Mercy Streets is interesting, if slightly contrived. You have twin brothers, a massive con scheme, and a romance, all of it well-plotted and laced with a nice touch of humor. Surprisingly, the Godly thematic material is not as in-your-face. No worries brethren, you'll still score a healthy dose of Gospel, faith, and forgiveness, but it's definitely more subtle, making Mercy Streets one of the least-blatant, blatant examples of celluloid Christianizing I've seen.

In the end, consider this a recommendation. Non-Believers may not be as off-put with Mercy Streets and the story is genuinely engaging, but this is still something geared towards the flock.

The DVD is legit: 1.85:1 letterbox and a 2.0 stereo mix meet a laid-back commentary track, standard-issue promo documentary, and deleted scenes.

Closing Statement

The target audience is narrower than most, sure, but Mercy Streets is good and lends credibility to the Christian film production market.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. As Uncle Jesse would say, "Have mercy!"

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 85
Extras: 80
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Drama
• Mystery
• Religious and Spiritual

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette


• IMDb

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