Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA, 2011. TriStar Pictures, Sherwood Pictures, Provident Films, Affirm Films, Alabama Production Group. Screenplay by Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick. Cinematography by Bob Scott. Produced by Stephen Kendrick. Music by Mark Willard. Production Design by Darian Corley, Sheila McBride. Costume Design by Terri Catt. Film Editing by Bill Ebel, Steve Hullfish, Alex Kendrick.
The difficulties of balancing work as a cop in Albany, Georgia with paternal duties at home is the focus of this faith-based drama directed by and (ill-advisedly) starring Alex Kendrick. Ken Bevel plays the new officer in town whose adventures begin upon arrival, he is filling up his gas tank when a nameless thug tries to steal his truck and almost gets away with it. Kendrick is well liked at work but at home has a bad habit of ignoring his elder son while favouring his more adorable younger daughter, while young rookie Ben Davies has a relationship in his past that involves a secret that he has never revealed to his friends. Bevel is having trouble getting through to his teenage daughter, who wants to date a boy who is friends with the troublemakers who tried to steal his truck (and are also drug dealers), while Robert Amaya is in the mix as a construction worker struggling to find employment with which to support his wife and kids. Over the course of this overlong, episodic saga, these men will come up against a number of obstacles that test their integrity and, by that measure, their trust in God’s teachings: Kendrick suffers a tragedy that puts his family in new perspective, Amaya has a chance at a promotion at work but needs to tell a lie in order to secure its happening, and the cop crew’s fourth member Kevin Downes gets into some trouble involving his own internal affairs. It’s easy to be cynical about this film’s spiritual aims, so it’s important to note that Kendrick’s failure in this dramatic dud is not his attempt to be meaningful to his Christian audience, but rather that his film is always trying harder to be meaningful than it ever attempts to be dramatically compelling. It comes off preachy in the wrong way, its characters presented with spiritual and emotional conflicts without them ever being examined internally, instead delivering catharsis through a church dedication ceremony in the film’s climax that feels like a paid advertisement for a self-help program. Kendrick challenges neither his characters’ or audience’s beliefs in any significant way, instead following the usual habit of mainstream Christian films and consoling his viewers with a Leave It To Beaver atmosphere out of which his characters make arbitrary choices to get on the straight and narrow. Films like this should be taken to task for suggesting that a good and proper life is simply a matter of effort, it’s disrespectful to the challenges of real life where moral superiority is a luxury that many cannot afford; the film’s contrived plot further deepens its artificiality with an emphasis on presenting its police officer characters as cuddly good old boys (with one of them is black so as to further discourage any challenging issues about this aspect of the story). What this film is promoting, then, is not responsibility in a world that offers too many pleasures to the wayward manchild, but a negative reaction to the threat that America’s increasing comfort with alternative lifestyles pose to traditional heteronormative, patriarchal structures. If this isn’t going to turn you off the prospect of watching it, though, it’s possible that the hackneyed dialogue and poor performances might do the trick.