persecuted-gretchen2Back 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.

 

8 comments
  1. “Or the Mozilla CEO who was fired because he had supported a ballot measure.”

    On April 3, 2014 Brendan Eich voluntarily stepped down as CEO of Mozilla. He was fully aware that knowledge of his hateful, Christian, anti-gay political activities was hurting the company.

    Why must you Christians always lie? Is it because you’re so goddamn dishonest?

    1. It’s not all Christians. But there are plenty who seem to have no problem passing on misinformation when it suits their purpose.

      Seems like the religious right feel the need to demonize not only atheists but even other Christians. In my opinion, it seems to hurt the Christian cause more than it helps but it plays well to those of the religious right.

    2. So you are fine with a CEO stepping down after being harassed for his political beliefs because they seem hateful to you, because you are anti-Christian and pro-gay. Who is hateful here? Who is against free speech?

  2. I saw the movie today in south Florida. I don’t go to “Christian” movies, but I went to this one based on the previews.[Huff n Puff said it was aweful, so that was a good enough endorsement for me]. It was thought provoking. It would have been easy to portray the government as “evil” and the christians as “good” but life is much more complicated and the movie showed how in any given situation, how good people can be sucked into betraying their values. When stuff hits the fan we will all have to make choices, and it was interesting to see the choices the characters in the film made. Of course, the ultimate question is: how will I choose?

    “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.”

    Happens to be Christian? The tel-evangeiist is pressured by the Federal government to endorse legislation that is contrary to his beliefs. What gov agency does the reviewer work for? I’m not going to go into every error the reviewer made. In the future, we will all be asked to make choices. This is how some people chose, how will you choose?

  3. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the makers of Persecuted actually did a fundraiser to help Saaed Abedini’s wife buy a new house. This movie may be a good conversation piece to raise awareness of real Christian persecution around the world.

  4. In this day and age, the mere presence of positive media promoting the virtues of people of faith, as the hero, is most welcome. Whether the movie is an Oscar winner or flop matters not. The fact that someone cares enough to put our faith in a positive light is enough for me. I hope to see this movie and many others like it. Hollywood has a lot of making up to do.

    1. There was a day when Christians should support a film because it was a Christian film. That day is past. We’ve had three Faith -based films turn in $50 million each, not counting Noah. I have no doubt that people involved in this film are concerned about persecution of Christians, but this movie failed as an artistic effort. Flywheel, the first Sherwood Pictures film, was better made and had a better grasp of how making a movie worked and they made that movie with all-volunteer actors, a $10,000 budget, and a single camera. There’s no excuse for making a film like this with these sort of actors and producing this sort of result. A film like this is incompetent and it doesn’t represent Christ well. It doesn’t edify Christians because no one can follow what’s going on. It’s like hiring to build cabinets and looking at the cabinet, seeing all the shelves hanging loose, the door half way off its hinges and the paint already peeling and defending it by saying, “You know there aren’t many Christian cabinet makers around.” I can see supporting a film that might be seen as a little cheesy but this was just awful and if Christians want to impact through film, they really need to learn how to make films.

  5. “Christian-run businesses like wedding cake-bakers or photographers now must participate in gay weddings or shut down.”

    Uh, NO, not quite. You can run a perfectly profitable business without discriminating against Gay customers (or Black or Jewish or Arabic customers, for that matter). If you offer a product for the purpose of making a profit, you sell it to ALL paying customers. You don’t get to say, “I’m going to sell wedding cakes to good heterosexual Christian couples only.” Bakeries and photographers don’t exist to enforce religious dogma, they exist to turn a profit. If you can’t sell wedding cakes to all couples, don’t sell wedding cakes at all.

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