Assassin 33 A.D. (2020)

JIM CARROLL

Bil’s rating (out of 5): B

USA, 2020. . Screenplay by Jim Carroll. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by .

Saving Jesus is all in a day’s work for the heroes of this bizarre, conceptually extravagant action film.  Employees of a multi-million dollar tech company are working to develop time travel technology for their boss who is anxious to get the bugs out of the system, promising them millions in bonus dollars if they pull it off.  Genius scientist solves their tech issues and almost makes it work, then watches in horror as his parents are killed in front of him as inducement to finish the job, learning the awful truth that his bosses are Muslim terrorists who plan to go back in time to kill Jesus Christ and prevent Christianity from ever happening.  If that much of the plot sounds crazy enough to make you wish you could go back in time and prevent movies from ever happening, it gets even loopier as Roberts and his fellow lab rats follow the bad guys into the past to thwart their plans, finding themselves dropped in modern garb in the garden of Gethsemane and interrupting the saviour’s private prayer to his heavenly father (how they decide what exact date to travel back to is not explained).  Thankfully, Jesus can use his magic to speak English to them as he is escorted to safety in order to prepare for his proper death, by crucifixion in order to, if you believe it literally happened or not, have as momentous an effect on western human history as anyone ever had.  The time travel aspect of the plot is about as logical as any similar narrative ever was, but any chance it had at being goofy and diverting fizzles when you get back to Bible times and watch what basically looks like a bad Sunday school play with cheap costumes and even worse wigs.  As always with mainstream, American expressions of Christianity, there’s a commitment to presenting Christian believers as victimized, marginal members of a society that, in reality, has historically given them outsized, policy-influencing power while actually marginalizing others; there’s a line about these bad guys being “extremists” and not “regular” Muslims, a feeble attempt to excuse the blatant Islamophobia of the plot (people who put on Passion Plays also claimed that they weren’t literally telling people to enact a pogrom).  Perhaps minimizing accusations of racism is also why there is a white Christian character who joins the Jesus assassination operation after losing his family in a car accident and is seeking, in his lost faith, to literally get revenge on God (or perhaps that’s just there because much of the film’s plot steals elements from Stargate including this one).  The film relies more on traditions of Hollywood cinema (guns and lots of them) than it does religious dogma (though as an expression of American culture you could say that one is synonymous with the other), but as always these Christian films are more insulting to Christians than they are to everyone else:  you’re supposed to have faith to hold on to through all of life’s tragedies and traumas, trusting that all the pain will be healed in the afterlife, but here we learn that you can get back everything you’ve lost here on earth, where moth and rust destroy, so long as you try hard enough (and shoot enough bad guys).

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