Thursday, January 28, 2016

Gimme that old-time religion -- but maybe just not on film: Shawn Justice's RECONCILER


TrustMovies makes it a point to try to view a 'Christian' movie once a year (which is a lot more often than he goes to church), and this year he is getting it out of the way early via a film entitled RECONCILER, directed and co-written (with Scott Galbraith) by Shawn Justice, shown below. The film is relatively short (just 86 minutes) and has a storyline that encompasses everything from a kidnap mystery and the supernatural (some would call this religion; I call it otherworldly) to estranged brothers, a devolving police partnership (shown at bottom), a father-son conflict, the importance of giving to religious charities, and of course faith in god.

The problem with most faith-based films I've seen is that their first intention is always to teach a lesson about the importance of faith in Jesus and god. And since I personally feel that this is the least of what human beings should be doing right now (or ever) and instead should be placing their faith in what they can see and hear and feel and understand with some rationality rather than a concept that organized religion (of all kinds) puts in place to keep power where it always remains -- with the wealthy and already powerful -- I find most of these faith-based films near-farcical and something that indeed preaches to the choir.

Reconciler (formerly known as The Reconciler), while doing absolutely all of the above, is at least a bit more entertaining than some of its brethren movies because it involves a kind of mystery: Who is kidnapping all these people and making them remain locked up in some way until they can solve their differences? It is also generally well-acted enough to not make one cringe. After a very nice opening (above), the movie begins bouncing back and forth between this original kidnap tale and that of a reporter who has been assigned by her editor to do some sort of investigation of the state of America and religion. Then, thanks to another "reporter" who is one of the kidnap victims, we start bouncing between various other tales involving the kidnapper's work -- who has evidently done this before to various estranged families and workplace partners.

That editor mentioned earlier is played by the late Roddy Piper (above), the wrestler-turned-actor who starred in one of the classic sci-fi/political films of all time, They Live. Here, Piper has a very small role, but he makes a perfectly professional job of it. The DVD also offers a very nice tribute to Mr. Piper from the director and his cast and crew. (That's newcomer Levi Davis, below, who plays the movie's needy son.)

Movie-wise, Mr. Justice has a lot to learn about storytelling and how to handle exposition. His film does seem to clunk along in second gear most of the way. On the plus side, he had roped in an attractive cast of actors, including a set of twins (Jeremy and Jourdan Steel) who play the kidnapped brothers, and he lets them all do their thing -- while the soundtrack provides some faith-based soft-rock music which makes a fine accompaniment to the simplistic message of "Come back to god, people!" A sweet and happy, feel-good ending offers up absolutely nothing to offend -- or to challenge.

You can find Reconciler on DVD now, available at Walmart stores across the country. Once February hits, it will spread to other venues, too. You can learn more about the film by clicking here.

2 comments:

Scott Galbraith said...

Hello I'm Scott Galbraith. I wrote the film with Shawn and I also played Ed in the movie. Your review has taught me one thing, I accomplished what I hoped to. I've seen so many Christian films and I have exactly the problem that you say they have bad acting and so wrapped up in a message they forget to be entertaining. i wanted to fix that and Shawn was nice enough to help me do so thank you for reviewing it

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for your comment, Scott. (I didn't pay good enough attention to the cast of the movie or I would have noticed that you did double duty.) I am glad to hear about your intentions and learn that we agree. And, yes, you and Shawn did manage to circumvent that usual hazzard. Your film is more entertaining than a number of others I've seen.