Saturday, April 7, 2012

A juicy Malcolm McDowell in Tim Chey's SUING THE DEVIL: good, Christian schlock

TrustMovies understood even better the bedrock appeal of Christian fundamentalism from the very beginning of the scripture-thumping movie SUING THE DEVIL, when the film's hero, Luke (played by an angry, too-often one-note Bart Bronson), tells us what a terrible year he's had and then wonders aloud, "Why does the good lord let Satan get away with so much?" You'll notice that there is no mention of either Luke, himself, or the rest of us poor humans in his query.  Nope: He and we are off the hook because the responsibility for bad stuff, doncha know, lies solely in the lap of the good lord -- or with that other fellow, down below.

Granted, toward the end of the film, personal responsibility does rear its little head. But like so much else in this silly Aussie/American mish-mash of a movie, it carries only tendentious sermonizing rather than any real weight. Satan -- as played with lip-smacking villainy by one of the world's great lip-smackers, Malcolm McDowell (below) -- is indeed sued by Luke and, for reasons known only to the movie-maker (writer/director Tim Chey, shown at left), decides to make an appearance in court -- bringing with him a battery of the world's finest (and of course sleaziest) lawyers to defend himself. How the court -- its judge, jurors and attendees, not to mention the media -- actually knows this guy is the real Satan is as cursorily handled as everything else in the movie. You either shrug and buy it wholesale, or simply stop watching. The "surprise ending" (I guess you could call it this) reduces the entire affair to pointlessness, in any case.

To give just one example of lazy screenwriting, "Are you really Satan," asks one woman of McDowell, as he approaches the courthouse. He grabs her and twirls her around, as he says, "How about a little dance with Satan?" Well, I ask, why not "How about a little dance with the devil?" Get some variety, not to mention some alliteration, into your screenplay, please.

At another point, Satan yells out, "You're all losers!" and one tends to agree with the guy. Our hero Luke (above) is said to be a genius, but the basis for this assessment is never remotely visible. And when his co-attorney tells him "That was amazing!" after a particularly ludicrous courtroom scene, you'll realize that all this is only working for those already converted. Further, Luke has a "mother" scene in court that is beyond embarrassing in its heavy-handed faux emotions.

In terms of any kind of law, lawyering or judicial believability (that's Ros Gentle, above, as the judge), the movie simply stinks. McDowell does get one good speech at the film's climax, which he delivers with relish. The denouement, however, is just another sermon, and then as previously noted, the ending pulls the rug out from under everything that has taken place. Overall, Suing the Devil deserves a big, fat raspberry.

One further note of interest: Mr McDowell is listed in the credits as the film's producer. This is at least the actor's second brush with fundamentalism in the movies (watch, if you can bear it, The List, for another example). One dearly hopes that this sort of thing will not becomes a habit for this fine actor. Suing the Devil made its nationwide On-Demand debut this week (check your local TV reception provider for details), and it is also available for pre-order via Apple iTunes.

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