Ragamuffin [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rich Mullins never fit in as a kid, especially when it came to his father’s lofty expectations for him.  As a young boy, his father usually criticized him for not being the boy he wanted him to be since Rich much preferred the piano over the tractor.  Thus, when Rich had a chance to strike out on his own, he took it and sought to express his artistry wherever he went.  However, when his music became famous virtually overnight, he wasn’t able to handle the success.  In the end, he had to discover Who God really is in order to free from the past.

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this is a respectable, above-average production, starting with the artistic camera work that serves to enhance the overall experience.  Although scenes are sometimes unnecessarily dark, as well as black and white, this isn’t too big of an issue since the video quality is overall clear.  The audio quality is also a plus, and the soundtrack is okay even though it could have been better due to this film being about Rick Mullins.  For the most part, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized such that the story feels real.  Further, there are a few awkward cuts, but the editing is overall fine considering the large amount of content covered in this movie.  In the end, this is an acceptable production, especially for the time period, yet it could have done a little but more.  Even still, it does enough to make the film enjoyable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The life of Rich Mullins was definitely worth portraying in the context of film, and you could say this film was made before I Can Only Imagine started a new trend of Christian artist biopics.  Within Ragamuffin, there is an excellent exploration of real family of origin problems that exist in small town America as well as the emotional struggles of a performer while traveling on the road.  Thus, the plot contains great life philosophies and an artistic look at things, yet it’s bogged down with early and intermediate narration that tells us things without showing them.  Sometimes, expository dialogue is also used to save time due to the large amount of content that’s covered in this story, but there’s still a great exploration of relevant, authentic issues that many people struggle with.  Hence, the characters are raw and good even if they could have been better without so much narration, exposition, and time jumps that only allow a cursory glance at elements that need more focus.  Although some of the scenes could have been used better, Ragamuffin is still a believable journey of mental health, substance abuse, and relationship issues that come as a result of toxic family messages.  There’s also an honest portrayal of church problems in the 1990s that confused a lot of Christians, and the good parts of the dialogue are very worthwhile.  Near the end, there’s a collection of exquisite psychological sequences that make the entire film worth your time, but it would have been better to see substantial build-up to these.  In the end, this is a great film because of the topic it’s based on; there are plenty of opportunities for improvement, but it’s still enjoyable as it is.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other portions of the movie, the acting of Ragamuffin could be a bit better than it is, mostly by being more dynamic and less static.  There are some sequences of blank emotions, but on the whole, emotional experience is adequate.  The lead actor takes on the role of Rich Mullins quite well, and other cast members assume their respective roles with ease.  In summary, this film had a lot going for it that helped it rack up plenty of good marks, but there’s still more that could have been done here.

Conclusion

Basically, Ragamuffin is in desperate need of a remake because it was made before Christians were beginning to learn how to tell stories well in movies.  It’s a face value, here-are-the-plain-facts approach to things, but modern Christian entertainment demands more.  We can tell stories better than this; even so, Ragamuffin was ahead of its time for taking on an unpopular topic in Christianity in a time when everything was assumed to be fine, so for this reason alone, it’s worth your time.  We’d like to see the creators of this film collaborate with a good team because they could do great things together.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

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Fourth World [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Hudson is a young film maker in search of his big break as he tries to find a big story to film on the streets of Thailand.  Then he accidentally stumbles upon an underground world of kids struggling to survive on the streets and to stay safe from the dark world of child trafficking.  Hudson decides to film them for personal gain but soon finds that they are changing him.  As he begins to care more and more, he becomes determined to do more to change their world.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Shot on authentic international locations, Fourth World has an air of professionalism and tough realism about it.  Video quality is clear, as is the audio quality.  The soundtrack is effective.  However, the docu-drama\reality show premise is used to take some production shortcuts, such as shaky camera work and inconsistent lighting.  However, the editing is mostly average with a few minor issues.  Overall, this is a good start for production, especially considering the international sets and locations.  It will be interesting to see what this team does in the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Fourth World is based on a good idea and built on a realistic premise that highlights important issues that need to be highlighted in film.  There is no doubt that this film supports a very worthy cause, but the story leaves something to be desired as it seems to lack general focus.  The storyline is somewhat simplistic and the characters need further deepening with more meaningful dialogue.  There is also too much unnecessary narration that could have been used as transformative dialogue.  However, the ending is touching and includes a slight twist.  In the end, this is an adequate call to action, but we feel that the impact would have been deeper with a more complex plot and characters.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While there are fairly good performances from most of the cast members, this is unfortunately not Andrew Cheney’s best performance.  A lot of the child actors and actresses are good and make this section overall above average.  Also, care is given to make this cast culturally authentic.  In short, this is one of the movie’s strongest points.

Conclusion

Human trafficking, especially child trafficking, is a serious issue that must be spoken about in the context of film, especially Christian film.  Non-profits like Bring Me Hope are no doubt leading the way in ending this horrible practice.  We know that this was a first time around film for them and we applaud them for taking a step of faith and making this.  Fourth World is a great start and is something to build off of.  We look forward to whatever else they have planned for the future.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review