Judge Adam Arseneau may look tough, but he's really very fragile. Especially in the groin.
Our review of Not Easily Broken, published April 8th, 2009, is also available.
Life tries to break you. Love holds you together.
Based on the novel by pastor and preacher T. D. Jakes, Not Easily Broken is a very black, very spiritual, very life-affirming film about the pitfalls and perils of building a happy marriage. This one single sentence should tell you everything you need to know about the film.
Hooray, my work here is done. Good night!
Facts of the Case
(Editor's note: We've brought Judge Adam Arseneau back here to finish his review. We apologize for the interruption.)
Okay, okay, put down the baseball bat. I'll write, I'll write. Lousy editors…
Dave Johnson (Morris Chestnut, Boyz n the Hood) had it made, with a beautiful wife Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) and a promising baseball career. Their faith is strong, and their lives are full of hope and promise. Unfortunately, life throws some curveballs at you. After an injury sidelines his baseball career, Dave finds his life ten years later lacking. He works a menial job while his wife brings home the money, and his baseball dreams have dwindled to teaching inner city youths the game.
After a car crash sidelines Clarice into rehab, a young nurse named Julie (Maeve Quinlan, Ken Park) is hired to help rehabilitate her. Stress and tension overwhelm the house, and soon Dave realizes that more than her leg needs fixing—their entire marriage may be broken.
A feel-good, spiritual film about the pleasures and perils of marriage and the importance of God in our lives, Not Easily Broken has a plot you can see coming like a freight train packed full of bibles. A happy marriage sours slowly over time, and the catalyst of a car crash sends husband and wife scowling into their respective corners. Both alternate between anger and sadness, even flirt with the idea of infidelity, but eventually agree to strengthen their bonds through God and church. The story, penned by influential black pastor and author T.D. Jakes, is as straightforward and wholesome as they come.
Truth be told, it's a sweet film. It's embarrassingly predictable, but technically proficient, with believable performances from its lead actors, solid comedic sidekick work, and a religious ethos that weaves in and out of the film without being particularly inflammatory to the olfactory of the non-believers. You can tell right away the film pushes a non-denominational Christian value upon its audiences, but it's not a bad sort of push. Good things can happen to bad people, and marriages are strengthened by faith in things greater than a person. You don't have to be particularly religious to get behind those values.
The film's strength comes in its dynamic between wife and husband, with strong performances from its leading actors Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson, who sell the roles very well. It's not difficult to believe that even the best and strongest bonds can be tested. The film is directed by Bill Duke (Hoodlum, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit), a multitalented fellow best known for his jowly tough-guy acting chops in films like Commando and Predator.
All in all, Not Easily Broken is not going to win any dramatic Oscars for story or performances. It's a straight-as-an-arrow affirmation of faith and family. Married couples will no doubt find much to identify with Dave and Clarice as they try to reconcile a lifetime of divulging priorities, financial stresses, temptations, and arguments. Then again, most married couples probably get enough of this sort of thing at home without wanting to watch a movie about it. It's all about faith, forgiveness, and patience. If you need a movie to reinforce these ideas for you, renting Not Easily Broken is certainly cheaper than a marriage counselor.
The Blu-ray presentation is impressively clean and crisp, offering a well-balanced transfer with deep black levels and color levels filtered and stylistically tinted towards browns and low reds. It might not be the most visually striking film, but the high definition 1080p transfer does the material wonders, making all but the most obscure details render in razor-sharp detail. A small amount of grain is noticeable, but never distracting. This is a brand-new film, and it is on par with recent releases all shot knowing they will end up on Blu-ray.
Audio fares almost as well, with a Dolby TrueHD track only, but surprisingly, no legacy codec support. The TrueHD track is warm and inviting, with clear dialogue and excellent articulation, but doesn't really get lively in the rear channels as often as one would expect it to. Bass response is nice and low, never overpowering but always present.
Extras for a Blu-ray are very slim; we get a short making-of featurette and some deleted scenes. Not a lot to sink the teeth into.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's nothing overtly wrong with Not Easily Broken, but it omits that peculiar odor of "Lifetime Movie of the Week" that will deter viewers. The story is a rolling cliché from start to finish, with no left turns, surprises, or complexity. People will see this film to get exactly what it advertises: predictable plot, humdrum melodrama, and watered-down effervescent spirituality. It doesn't have anything else to offer beyond this for audiences, so unless this is exactly—and I mean exactly—what you are looking for, I suggest you keep on walking.
Not Easily Broken is a simple, warm, romantic, and life-affirming film, and it does what it sets out to do—get all sticky and sweet on your hands. For those seeking something middle-of-the-road, safe, affirming, and positively representing good Christian values, Not Easily Broken should satisfy.
Not my cup of tea, but certainly not guilty.
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