Producer(s): Patrick Johnston, Elizabeth Johnston, Paul Munger, Brian Bosworth, Kevin Sorbo, Eric Jellison, Tim Schmidt, Doug Yeary, Betty Yeary
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Eric Roberts, Brian Bosworth, Mollee Gray, Jenn Gotzon, Julia Denton, Kevin Wayne, Ian Lauer, Blake Burt, Josh Murray, Kiera Strauss, Brian Friday, Marisa Hampton, Tyler Sanders, David Benham, Jason Benham, Tim Schmidt, Nicole C. Mullen, Rusty Thomas, Nico Zahniser, Jesse Boone, Jonathan Bocinsky
Plot Synopsis: When the dollar collapses, widespread rioting and looting ensues, and five children tragically lose their parents in the chaos. Armed with a couple of their father’s weapons, they are able to survive in a stretch of woods on the outskirts of their burning town. Facing starvation and threats from encroaching gangs, they begin to doubt God’s love. Will God answer their prayers, or must their faith remain blind to facts?
Much like other newer, more mainstream PureFlix releases, Do You Believe sports professional production quality with very few errors to speak of. Naturally, due to the nature of this film, the editing is mostly a mess as each scene tries to be a dramatic climax with no resting periods or relief scenes. Thus, the only issue with the production can be rectified by improving the plot.
Plot and Storyline Improvements
Much like God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe takes on far too many subplots than it can handle. Easily half of them are unnecessary, as each of them try to insert a dramatic turn into nearly every scene that comes up. The paramedic subplot is mostly unrealistic and unnecessary, and its deletion would have also rendered the Andrea Logan White\Sean Astin subplot useless. The military veteran suffering from PTSD and the girl with the unknown past who tries to commit suicide belong in their own film, so they can be developed better as characters. The criminal brothers subplot is awkward and stereotypical. With the removing and reassignment of these subplots, the more pertinent elements of this storyline, namely the older couple who helps the homeless mother and daughter and the pastor and his wife who help the young homeless mother, could have been given more room to grow and be developed beyond their current state. An alternate option to improve this plot would have been to start at the mass car accident scene and then work backward by following each character’s path to the accident, but this would take a lot of skill and discipline. Also, the narration has to be totally eliminated. In short, there is so much content in Do You Believe that there is bound to be potential in here somewhere.
While there are some good elements to the acting of this film, most casts would be improved in the absence of Liam Matthews, Andrea Logan White, and of course, Ted McGinley. There are just so many cast members involved here that any good portions are cancelled out by poor performances. However, if the storyline was pared down to a realistic medium, the cast would have also been trimmed to ensure quality of quantity.
Quality over quantity was truly the order of the day for this film. Dumping every subplot you can think of into one film will make a film that a lot of people will see and perhaps like momentarily, but its lasting impact is blunted by its onslaught of content. However, there are enough good ideas in this film to perhaps kickstart a better film in the future.
When someone is going about their everyday activities, they never know what is about to happen or who they are about to meet. They all have struggles and secrets that they don’t want anyone to know, but they would be free if they just knew someone they could trust them with. But people never know when they are about to meet Someone Who will change their life forever. They never know until they have their own Encounter with Jesus.
Production Quality (1.5 points)
The Encounter series follows a typical production formula that PureFlix has been using for years. They check the boxes for making the production look good on the surface, including video quality, audio quality, sets, props, and locations. The soundtrack is sometimes engaging but mostly standard. Sometimes there is too much shaky camera work, especially in the poorly shot actions scenes. The biggest issue here is that large amount of wasted time throughout the series. Most episodes are 25-28 minutes long, but the plots are usually so thin that this is too much time. The exception to this is of episodes one and four, which will be discussed later. But in the end, this series demonstrates an overall typical and average production effort.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
For eight episodes, The Encounter rehashes the same types of ideas, concepts, and conversations over and over again, just with different characters. Outside of episodes one and four, there is no creativity here, as the opening sequence tells you what’s going to happen in each episode. Besides being predictable, these stories are also very quick and punctuated, like they’ve been made in a quick plot factory. While there are some good issues raised in the series, there are too many quick fixes and easy solutions based on creepy and plastic Jesus dialogue. Thus, the messaging is quite shallow. However, there is some potential here, as the first episode is very interesting and should have been the focus of the whole series so we could have gotten to know these characters better. Also, the fourth episode would have made an interesting movie, if done properly. But overall, this series just hops from high point to high point and discards substance and realism along the way. It’s a good idea done very poorly.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
While there are bright spots in this large scale cast, there are also plenty of issues. For one, it seems like Bruce Marchiano, who has done well portraying Jesus in the past, has lost his touch. Other cast members are typical PureFlix standbys and rejects who seem to be lazy and phoning in their performances. But as it is, it just comes out as average.
Continuity Quality (0 points)
When the same ideas repeat over and over again in each episode and new characters are constantly being introduced, there is no chance or hope for continuity in this season. There are no story arcs or character arcs. We need to see what happens to these characters after their initial encounters, which is why it would have been great to have the characters from the first episode be the main focus of this series. Yet the way it has been done is shallow and lazy, thus warranting no points here.
There’s nothing wrong with having Jesus intervene in everyday situations, but spitting out a whole bunch of episodes that are all basically the same doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s easy to create a bunch of surface characters and then leave them; it takes true skill to craft meaningful characters that we can connect with. It’s also a great idea to create a Christian series, but we need something better than this. We need sustainable ideas that make people want to follow a set of characters across an arc. PureFlix has the resources to do this, but will they?
Two years after the Rapture, the enigmatic Josh McManus has a mission to do good and to right wrongs, even when it seems like evil is winning. His latest mission takes him to a strict and legalistic settlement that tolerates no crime in order to gain medical attention for an injured girl. In exchange for both of their lives, Josh must carry out a dangerous mission: search for a mysterious and troublemaking vagrant known as the Shepherd and bring him back so the settlement leader, Drake, can exchange him to his superiors for more life saving supplies. In route to searching for the Shepherd, Josh and his unwanted tagalong, Sofia, must battle multiple villains and come to grips with what they truly believe about Jesus and His plan for the world.
Production Quality (2 points)
Despite previous production struggles, Bradley Dorsey and Gabriel Sabloff have greatly improved this franchise. The camera work improves dramatically in The Black Rider, as does the sound quality. The surroundings and sets are innovative and creative. Gone are ridiculous special effects, including that weird lightning! This would have been a stellar production were in not for a collection of small issues—no doubt White influences. For example, the CGI that is used is very amateurish. Action scenes are overall not produced well, and there are too many of them, which is an editing problem. The scope of the plot is so vast that precious time does not need to be wasted on silly fight scenes. Yet these such portions squeezed out the deepening of plot creativity. Nonetheless, this is the type of production that Pureflix has been trying to stab in the dark for years.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)
The abysmal non-plot of The Beginning of the End seems like a distant memory after viewing The Black Rider. There is a unique psychological edge to this plot and creative concepts that give the film deeper meaning beyond car chases and gunfights. An entire new cast of characters is introduced, and it actually works. A new world is introduced two years after The Sea of Glass and Fire, and it’s better than before. But this new world is a double-edged sword—it’s too big for the scope of this film. If more of this world had been explained in The Sea of Glass and Fire, we would have a framework to understand, but this did not happen. Foreign plot devices such as the ominous ULC are forced upon viewers without explanation. However, the city-state government system works well in this apocalyptic setting and gives the movie that epic backdrop David A. R. White has been searching for. Moreover, there are other speculative concepts that are introduced and not fully explained. Yet the gospel message is philosophically communicated far better than ever before in a Pureflix movie, and all without forcing the message down the audience’s throats. There is unfortunately still wasted time on childish fighting scenes. The escapades of Josh McManus, a surprisingly good character, border on unrealistic and sometimes coincidental. Some of the many villains in this movie are laughable, while others are believable. Each character is crafted through mostly effective dialogue. The ending of this plot is also a double-edged sword: it both introduces a key psychological element and confuses the audience. It both isolates the viewer and makes them want more. Any further discussion is beyond the scope of this review, but the bottom line is Dorsey and Sabloff really have something going here, something that needs to be continued.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Hands down, The Black Rider is David A. R. White’s best acting work to date. Bradley Dorsey also contributes an excellent role to the film, perhaps his best. Unfortunately, there is still some cheesy acting from certain cast members. Kevin Sorbo in a thrift store disaster getup and sporting a fake insert-ethnicity-here accent is just too much to bear. Action acting is still B-grade. Other small issues plague an otherwise great casting job, such as that dumb sheet the Shepherd wears. Otherwise, costuming is fairly responsible. Line delivery is sometimes effective and sometimes forced. Emotions are mostly believable. In short, everything about this film is give and take: for every cheesy element, there is an excellent element, and vice versa.
The Revelation Road saga is a cinematic freak of nature—a film franchise with a redemption arc of its own that closely mirrors the rise of Josh McManus, the surprising crowning achievement of David A. R. White’s acting career. Nonetheless, The Black Rider is a constant tug of war between the C-grade action of The Beginning of the End and the psychological creativity of The Sea of Glass and Fire. The third installment suffers from the wasted time of the first two installments, where this time could have been used to build a better backstory instead of shoving in all into one movie, intending to fix a broken series in one stroke. But The Black Rider is proof that broken sagas can be fixed. Therefore, we are surprisingly anticipating the release of Revelation Road 4.
After witnessing the Rapture, Josh McManus sets out on the road trip of his life to discover the whereabouts of his family, whom he is unable to contact. But making the trek back won’t be easy with a crazed biker gang on his tail, bent on revenge for how he stole their pride. Josh is joined by Beth, whose grandparents were taken in the Rapture. As they travel across the desert, navigating the strange new world they live in, Josh will have to come to grips with who he really is and what he has done in the past. Not only him, but Hawg will also have to reconcile with the person he has become. On a collision course, Josh and Hawg will both have to determine how they are going to change who they are.
Production Quality (1 point)
Believe it or not, production quality improves from the first series installment to the second. Video quality remains the same, but sound quality also improves. Special effects are used more responsibly. The weird lightning is still there, but it’s a step in the right direction. The camera work is strange at times, but not nearly as bad as the first film. The editing is still a work in progress, but there seems to be more effort put into this installment. Overall, that’s the story of Revelation Road 2—the thought is there, but the execution is only half there.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)
The Beginning of the End was obviously driving to something, as that non-plot continually delayed the inevitable next film. Thankfully, that something was actually worth waiting for. Who knew that Pureflix would begin using flashbacks to develop characters? Since when do the Whites and company create character backstories? Stranger things do happen, and they happened in The Sea of Glass and Fire (whatever that title’s supposed to mean). The core idea behind Josh’s character is very innovative, and seemingly beyond the reaches of the Pureflix creative realm. Even Hawg is turned into a somewhat believable villain through flashbacks. And Cat…oh wait, never mind. But pitfalls still exist in this film—mindless violence rivals B-grade Hollywood action flicks and time fillers litter the plot. Dialogue is better in the flashbacks than in the present plot. The ending inevitably leads to another film, but we have to wonder if this is really necessary at this point. Overall, this plot is a huge step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Mostly due to the flashbacks, the acting slightly improves from the previous movie. This is probably the best David A. R. White, Andrea Logan White, and Brian Bosworth will get when it comes to action acting. Line delivery and emotional delivery are blasé, making this an overall underwhelming cast performance. But hey, they got one point!
Revelation Road 2 is one of the rare Pureflix movies that really had something, but never found it. The overarching idea behind the series, if you ignore the strange eschatology, is very creative and breaks genre barriers in Christian film. Yet under all of this is a sad storyline, and this is the fact that four points is a monumental accomplishment for this creative team. The Sea of Glass and Fire stands as an example of how good even this crew can be when they put their minds to it, but it also makes us hunger for more. Unfortunately, that more is probably not going to happen, if history is any indication. Basically, if this idea were put into the hands of another team, it would have been Hall of Fame and beyond.
Josh McManus is a confused man. As a traveling self-defense product salesman, he is used to meeting new people on a daily basis, but he is not comfortable with the secret man inside of him. While travelling across the western America desert, strange things start to happen. Pursued by mysterious biker villains and plagued by weather anomalies and electrical failures, he is finally forced to face off with his pursuers. Hawg is a troubled biker gang leader with an agenda to take over random small towns in the western United States. His disgruntled mentality tends to cause discontent in his gang, but they ride on, bent on destroying the mysterious Josh McManus. All of the characters involved must not only come to grips with who they are, but with the strangely changing world around them.
Production Quality (.5 point)
Where to begin? Let’s start with the positive. The only reason this film’s production is not zero points is because there is at least clear video quality. Otherwise, there is nothing good to discuss. The camera work is obnoxious, with random dizzying cuts and zooms for faux-dramatic effect. To ‘enhance’ action sequences, the camera jerks all around, getting weirdly close to important characters. While we’re on the topic of action scenes, they are either very poorly executed or far too long, eating up huge chunks of the movie’s runtime. Watching a David A. R. White action scene is usually dizzying, and Revelation Road is no exception. Speaking of dizzying, the sheer overuse of special effects in this movie makes us wonder if it’s safe for epileptic viewers to watch. Topping things of, the soundtrack is deplorable. Therefore, as you can see, this is another horrific Pureflix production.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
With this movie packed so chock full with useless action sequences that add nothing to its overall purpose, whatever that is, actual plot depth is squeezed out of the picture. The intended plot can be summed up in a nutshell: random guy drives to a random desert town to sell self-defense gear (does anybody really do that?) and gets caught in the middle of a store holdup, uses secret military training to defeat mindless biker villains, hangs out with the store owner and his family, observe strange weather anomalies with eccentric local policemen, calls his worried wife about stuff, plays vigilante with local deadbeats, and observes a strange ‘rapture’ from a local motel. Elsewhere, we are shown the life and times of a bizarre desert biker gang led by a grunting leader and his sidekick, plus Andrea Logan White in a makeup disaster. No character development occurs as the ‘plot’ jumps from one explosion and gunfight to the next. Dialogue has a typical cheesy, off-the-wall Pureflix feel. We are unsure what is trying to be communicated here except for another offbeat Christian apocalyptic concept. This movie might as well be a commercial for the next one, as it delays the viewers any real substance for over ninety wasted minutes. Finally, the ending is extremely confusing and isolating. In short, Revelation Road is the story of the White action films: toss out convention and common sense and exchange it for cheaply constructed action sequences.
Acting Quality (0 points)
What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said? With the same old Pureflix actors and actresses recycled in the Revelation Road saga, their acting skills do not improve. When a collection of cast members is kept in such a bubble, there is no reason for them to improve when there is no constructive criticism or filter. Through this film, emotions are forced and unbelievable. Action scenes are sloppily acted and line delivery is lazy. Unfortunately, there is nothing unique or surprising from this cast.
We promise we are really not out on some kind of Pureflix warpath, but when a company so consistently generates such low quality and bizarre content in the name of Christianity, they must be called out. Revelation Road may be the pinnacle of the Whites’ action movie career. It involves every possible element of a C-grade action flick. With creations like this, only two conclusions can be determined: either Pureflix does not know how to make a good movie or they do not care to make a good movie. Apocalyptic movies are usually bad enough, but this motorcycle madness takes things to a whole new level. The end result is just another ridiculous Pureflix creation.
Pastor Matthew has almost forgotten why he believes what he believes. His spiritual life is stagnant and he wonders why he is even a pastor, until one day he when he encounters an eccentric man on the side of the road carrying a cross. The man asks him if he truly believes in the cross he preaches about. This prompts Matthew to alter his approach to ministry by assisting a homeless pregnant girl and by learning more about the lives of his congregants. Outside of his realm of influence, events begin to take place that indirectly affect him and the people of his church. They are all headed for an unexpected collision and are forced to truly look at the lives they are living—what do they truly believe?
Production Quality (2.5 points)
In the same vein of God’s Not Dead, the production of Do You Believe is an improvement over previous PureFlix installments. The camera work is good; several difficult action scenes are portrayed well. The sets are realistic and diverse. Audio quality is also good and the soundtrack is respectable. There is not too much wasted time in the movie, but the editing is not the greatest. However, this is most likely due to the high amount of plot content.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
There are a lot of well-meaning intentions in the plot of Do You Believe. There are a lot of good stories, but like God’s Not Dead, they are all crammed together, thus making it hard to focus on one or for each one to develop as they should. There are more subplots in Do You Believe, and a handful of them are unnecessary and stereotypical. There is also too much narration that replaces the value of developing a plot. Due to the large amount of content, most of the characters are reduced to stereotypes and are therefore not accessible. What would have greatly improved this movie would have been to start at Do You Believe’s climax and then work backward by integrating the past and the present. As it is, a lot is left on the field.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Some actors are professional, while others seem unrealistic in delivery. The cast is very diverse, which is a plus. It is possible that the many characters crowded out the scene and did not give actors enough time to work through their characters, but it is also possible that not enough acting coaching was employed in Do You Believe.
Do You Believe has an excellent message, but it is too issues-based. The better production quality and the action sequences do hold the attention of the target audience, but the movie is not as good as it could be. There is plenty of potential with some of the better story lines, but they are drowned out by too much content. It is noble that the creators wanted to address a lot of important issues in a Christian movie, but the point may be lost. In the end, it will be interesting to see how this PureFlix saga plays out in the future.