Back when my wife and I would often go to movies with other couples, I would tell a joke that “if I were a movie producer, what I would do is read Variety and keep track of the next blockbuster movie being made. Then I would make a similar movie, with a similar name, but extremely low budget. That way, when the blockbuster movie comes out and the ticket-buyers circle the block for it, maybe some of them will settle for my movie instead of waiting in line for the blockbuster. Or maybe some people will just get confused and go to my movie instead of the blockbuster. Either way, this plan is a sure-fire moneymaker!”
Jurassic Plaza and Supraman were some names suggested. This joke usually got a few cynical laughs.
I have since retired that joke, but you would think that with the other Christian or religious-themed movies out there, this might have been what motivated the promoters of the movie Persecuted. After all, religious movies Noah, Son Of God, and Heaven Is For Real, have just recently appeared in the theaters, so one could easily confuse the movie Persecuted with being in the same genre as the others. But no.
And that is a shame, because there is so much actual Christian persecution going on in the world. Like the Christians being killed in Nigeria, Egypt and Iraq, Meriam Ibrahim and her children held in Sudan, Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, and many, many others.
Or even the softer forms of Christian persecution going on everyday in the United States. For example, the Christian-run businesses like wedding cake-bakers or photographers who now must participate in gay weddings or shut down. Or the Mozilla CEO who was fired because he had supported a ballot measure, California’s Proposition 8, which passed with a majority of California voters in 2008.
Unfortunately, the movie Persecuted is a cheesy political thriller that involves a television evangelist pastor who opposes some legislation and gets framed for murder by the corrupt senator promoting the legislation. After faked photos turn up that show the drugged pastor and the girl later found murdered, the pastor goes on the run and becomes a fugitive. To clear his name, you know.
But the “persecution” for which the movie gets its name is not the widespread persecution of Christians. It refers to the persecution of an individual who happens to be Christian. Christianity is only tangentially related. The movie might have been more appropriately named “Frame-Up,” except it wouldn’t sell movie tickets to Christians like me, who want to see a movie addressing the issue of Christian persecution, and didn’t fully research the movie before putting our money down.
So the title “Persecuted” is misleading.
The movie is not even a good political frame-up movie. Loose threads abound. At one point the pastor’s wife was shown having a glass of champagne with her husband’s replacement pastor. The two of them make comments that give the impression that they were both in on the plot to frame her husband. But yet the wife looked stressed and guilty, and when her fugitive husband called her on the phone, she fills him in on the evidence against him, and advised him to lay low.
And how did the fugitive pastor make a phone call to his wife without his cell phone being traced?
And why did the pastor, while on the run, begin carrying rosary beads? Someone should pull the movie director aside and explain to him that an evangelical pastor, like the protagonist here, would not carry rosary beads. Unless he converted to Catholicism while on the run.
And the fugitive pastor became less of a pastor and more like any other run of the mill fugitive when he carried a gun into his meetings with various players in the scheme. I’m pretty sure it is written in a pastor rule-book somewhere that you lose your moral authority as a pastor being framed when you bring a pistol to talk with someone.
And at another point in the movie the fugitive pastor calls a sympathetic priest “Dad.” Excuse me? Not “Father,” but “Dad.” “Dad” is a pretty loaded nickname to call a priest. It requires some explanation.
What about the involvement of Jesus or Scripture in this film? A couple of Bible verses, like John 14:6, were recited, but not explained or made relevant. Almost window-dressing.
And while he was on the run, the fugitive pastor prayed to God, but nothing changed as a result of the prayer. The plot didn’t change and the pastor didn’t change any of his strategy. The pastor didn’t even feel any more at peace.
What I would like to know is this: how did this movie get such a cast of respectable actors? Not Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, mind you, but Persecuted include some experienced actors like James Remar, Dean Stockwell, and former senator Fred Thompson. I am sure each of them have had lousy scripts suggested to them before, so they probably know the difference between a good movie and a bad one.
I have a theory, and here goes: the script that got these actors on board was far from what survived the editing process. The final product may have taken four hours, but there were no loose ends and everything made sense. Who knows, maybe the fugitive pastor did convert to Catholicism while on the run, got confirmed and was handed some rosary beads. That’s possible.
And then the film’s editor went to work and shortened the movie to two hours.
And speaking of the production process, at times the sound effects in Persecuted were just too loud. It gave the movie the feeling of a Spaghetti Western from the 1970’s. I almost expected a long list of Italians in the closing credits.
In the end, Persecuted is a flop of a movie — a real turkey — either as a movie of Christian persecution or as a political thriller. Save your money and wait for the movies Exodus or Mary, which come out later this year. Or with any luck the Kendrick brothers will come out with another movie soon.
This column was originally published in Caffeinated Thoughts