TMN Movie Review: "Persecuted"

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An evangelist finds himself framed for murder and on the run after he refuses to back a senator's proposition calling for sweeping religious reform.
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Rating: PG-13

Length: 91 minutes

Release Date: July 18, 2014

Directed by: Daniel Lusko

Genre: Action / Drama / Mystery

 

In the wake of the Christian fundamentalist film "God's Not Dead," moviegoers were not overly excited about another Right Wing religious film like "Persecuted." This film was not a huge box office success, but the fast-paced thriller does have enough going for it to make it a worthwhile film. The story follows a successful American preacher named John Luther who is framed amid a dangerous religious reformation. Seeking truth and justice, he aims to reveal the deception going on behind closed doors. Offering a talented cast and intriguing plot, "Persecuted" is an exciting film.

John Luther (James Remar) was once an abusive man addicted to drugs and alcohol, but he converted to the Christian faith, which helped him to turn his life around. Now, he leads a large, influential evangelical ministry known as Truth. He upholds the highest moral values possible, and he encourages others to accept the Lord into their lives. One day, John is approached by Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison) who asks him to support a bill known as the Faith and Fairness Act, but John refuses. The bill would enforce rights already established in the constitution, such as the equal treatment of all religions, but it would also further certain politicians' careers and assert that The U.S.A. is not, nor has it ever been, a Christian nation. 

John sticks to his values, not wishing to water down his message in order to advance a political agenda, so the senator and other conspirators use the preacher's dark past to undermine his entire life. After being abducted, John discovers that he has been framed for raping and murdering a teenage girl. Targeted by ex-military operatives and the unknowing police force, he must leave his family, his ministry and everything else he knows behind him to find refuge and discover the truth.

John's wife Monica (Natalie Grant) is worried sick about her husband, but she clings to the belief that he is innocent. Meanwhile, John seeks refuge with his Catholic father, Dr. Charles Luther (Fred Dalton Thompson), and the two spend time in prayer and attempt to contact Monica. With a rosary in one hand and a gun in the other, John attempts to find whoever is responsible for the girl's death and clear his own name, all while struggling under the most intense persecution he has ever faced. 

"Persecuted" may have some plot holes and unbelievable elements, but the film itself is fast-paced and engaging, introducing a host of characters and agendas that are not what they first appear to be. John Luther and the rest of the characters have layers of complexities and mysterious pasts that come to light as the story unfolds. The dramatic music and action sequences play out nicely, and the climactic moments of the film keep viewers' eyes glued to the screen. Liberal audiences who are willing to look past the film's political and religious affiliations may find plenty of things to enjoy about this high-stakes thriller. 

It is pretty clear from the get-go that "Persecuted" is riddled with right-wing propaganda. Aside from this, it paints a picture of Christians in the United States as a vast minority who are under constant persecution from the government, a claim with which many Christians would not even agree. Thematic elements aside, the film also never truly explains why John is so opposed to the seemingly harmless bill and why various politicians would be so eager to secure his ruin. A few plot elements simply do not add up, but this is a common occurrence in action films of all types. Audiences who enjoy the ride without giving way to scrutiny are sure to have a more enjoyable movie-watching experience. 

The plot may not be anything groundbreaking, but the great cast helps this film rise above its flaws. James Remar has played tough guys with an emotional side in numerous TV shows and low-budget action films, and his presence is instantly recognizable. Remar succeeds in playing the troubled, gritty side of the pastor as he fights for truth, giving a stand-out performance. Fred Dalton Thompson gives a realistic portrayal of John's down-to-earth father, and movie veteran Dean Stockwell shines in every one of his on-screen appearances.

"Persecuted" is far from perfect, and some viewers might not enjoy its often-pushy religious agenda. However, the acting and pacing of the film are enough to keep viewers interested from beginning to end. This may not be the first film audiences rush to see when heading to the movies, but it is still a worthwhile flick with some great actors.