In the aftermath of a world war that left mutants and ISIS rebels roaming the earth in search of their next victims, Hunter Wilde fights to survive and protect those close to him. However, when a new threat emerges that he has no idea how to fight, Hunter does what he typically does: run away. Will he be able to rekindle his faith before it’s too late?
Production Quality (1.5 points)
Despite seemingly having adequate funding, this production fails to meet quality standards. This includes background noise that sometimes conflicts with spoken audio as well as a loud and generic soundtrack. The sets, locations, and props don’t effectively portray what they’re supposed to portray. Also, the camera work is wild, including poor shots in action sequences. The video quality is mostly stable throughout, however, and the editing is average. Despite some less-than-inspiring special effects, some elements of the production do improve as it goes on. Nonetheless, it’s only enough to earn a middle-of-the-road score for this section.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
Besides the fact that this film is based on a ridiculous premise and bizarre plot elements, it also contains a really bad and slightly incorrect portrayal of the spiritual dimension. The writers seemed to be obsessed with sensationalism, shock, and awe as well as fixated on pro-prepper messaging that seems to want the world to descend into chaos so that they can do whatever they want. Despite being a large-scale idea, the story is based on clunky narration and stock footage. It’s also full of forced drama and purposely creepy supernatural elements. In the character department, the so-called protagonist almost always saves the day via unrealistic action sequences. Other characters are built on forced cardboard dialogue and awkward conversations that make everything drag out. The villains are extremely cheesy, and the narrative decides what happens to the characters and what random things they’ll do without good reasons for doing them. Things only get more ridiculous as they go, mostly due to the fact that the movie confuses itself with wacky inter-dimensional subplots and terminology. The concepts of other realms are extremely difficult to grasp, and the screenplay’s questionable view of spirituality tends to play fast and loose with reality. In the end, this is a pointless storyline full of madness and nonsense.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Between overly theatrical emotions and forced line delivery, the cast was seemingly coached to be very serious for no good reason. Too often, tones and feelings don’t seem to appropriately fit the situations. Makeup is also an obvious problem, and the villain acting is laughably ridiculous. In the end, despite some okay moments that keep this section from being zero, the acting tends to worsen as it goes forward, which rounds out an overall absurd creation.
It’s difficult to understand what the makes of this film were really going for. Mixing a dystopian premise with muted political overtures, much like The Reliant, is basically a losing formula from the get-go. Combing this with poor production and acting aspects sends this movie down to the basement of Christian entertainment. However, the market is thankfully changing for the better, which will no longer allow screenplays like this to exist.
Detective Travis always wants to bring the criminals of his small Texas town to justice. However, he’s not always right, and he can’t do it all on his own, despite what he believes about himself. Through every twist and turn of each case, the detective learns something new about himself and about life, but the ultimate challenge of his work and life involves his daughter and her checkered past. Thus, when she comes to stay with him and his wife, he’s sure she’s got something to hide. However, he could have never foreseen the end result of this.
Production Quality (1.5 points) For a relatively low-budget series, Vindication is definitely trying when it comes to production. The video quality is great throughout, and the camera work is respectable. Sets, locations, and props are mostly fine, but the audio is sometimes too quiet. At first, there’s basically no soundtrack, but this tends to improve as the series goes on. While there are some creative story overlays and plot criss-crossing throughout, the editing can be fairly choppy at times. Sometimes, scenes start and stop at awkward places, and some portions seem unnecessary. However, this element also tends to improve with time. In the end, this is an average production that shows commendable effort.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point) What an absolute roller coaster of a storyline. It’s difficult to know where to begin with this; in the first two-thirds of the series, many of the cases are either fairly unrealistic or extremely simplistic. Some contain improbable circumstances just for the sake, it seems, of being unique and tricky. Others contain lots of coincidences and convenient turns; many of them include partially or mostly inappropriate content seemingly just because. While being edgy and realistic is a good quality to have in Christian entertainment (rather than white-washing humanity), there’s a fine line to walk between authentic and trashy. As a side note, some of the ‘crimes’ that are actually ‘twists’ are substantially questionable and borderline ‘vindicate’ the wrong types of behavior. Elsewhere, the suspense elements don’t seem to jive with reality even though there are some interesting psychological elements throughout. Besides the head-scratching partially objectionable content included, the treatment of police ethics and criminal procedure throughout the series would be offensive to many real police officers. Rules are callously broken with no resource, and while it would be one thing to portray a rogue cop in a negative light for the purpose of being realistic, it’s another thing to downright condone unethical practices in the name of doing the right thing, including mixing personal vendettas against certain people and in favor of family members with police work. The detectives’ time is spent on petty misunderstandings that would likely draw the attention of higher authorities due to their frivolous use of resources and questionable methods of arresting people with little reasonable suspicion. These two major problem areas (inappropriate content and offensive portrayal of procedure) are almost enough to totally derail the series from the get-go, especially when these issues are combined with a lot of blank and empty dialogue and cheap Christian messaging throughout the first two-thirds of the season. Odd portrayals of women and minorities throughout the series are also concerns to contend with, but the recurring subplot between the main character and his daughter keep the narrative on life support long enough to get to the final two episodes of the season, which almost save the writers from themselves. It’s clear that the entire series was made for this storyline, and the daughter is the only notably interesting character in the entire creation. The last two episodes are so starkly different from the other ones (except for the disregard for jurisdiction and other questionable practices in the name of being police with agendas) that it seems like an entirely different idea, yet the thinly-developed characters still shine through due to their lack of depth in the first eight episodes. Had they been properly built in the first two-thirds of the season via real cases and authentic circumstances, we would be looking at a totally different concept. As they are, the last two installments include very effective flashbacks that take a good look at hard issues effecting many people. In doing so, the final ‘villain’ is fairly realistic, and the partial conclusion of the subplot between the father and daughter is mostly authentic and believable. Nevertheless, despite the acceptable ending, it doesn’t cover over the multitude of sins committed by the rest of the storyline.
Acting Quality (1.5 points) Acting isn’t a glaring problem throughout the series even if many cast members come off as very robotic and overly practiced. However, this is likely not a talent problem or a coaching issue because the lines they are given are usually uninspiring. This is evident since acting seems to improve as dialogue gets a slight upgrade in the latter third of the season. Although makeup is terrible at first, this seems to get better too. The key standout performance from every episode she’s in comes from Emma Elle Roberts as she sets herself apart as a truly talented actress with potential beyond this series. In the end, this is neither the best nor the worst acting from a Christian season.
Continuity Quality (1.5 points) As previously mentioned, the only significant continuity throughout season one of Vindication involves the storylines of the central character’s family, especially his interactions with his daughter and her checkered past. However, these recurring subplots are fairly good in the midst of a mostly typical recurring crime drama style. Still, it would have been preferable to see some other interwoven subplots that were worthwhile to follow.
The creators of Vindication are trying to do something, but there are too many elements of season one that are way off base. The use of edgy content is commendable for a crime series, but it would be nice to see better standards of propriety when it comes to dealing with sensitive topics. For another, a lot of significant research needs to be conducted before anyone creates a drama centered around criminal procedure and police work because it can be easy to make careless mistakes. Further, there needs to be a better look at mental and behavioral health issues beyond simplifying them and reducing them to trite Christian sayings and prayers. In the end, this concept may work better as a larger-scale federal investigative storyline rather than confining it to a small town with unusual half-mysteries. To summarize, the creators have potential somewhere in here, but there’s too much blocking out the light.