Mercy Streets [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

John and Jeremiah are estranged twin brothers who were separated by tragedy.  One thinks the other is dead, while the other resents his twin for leaving him behind.  Now one of them is a priest, while the other is a slimy street dealer.  When they accidentally trade places and find themselves in harm’s way, they discover what they are really made of.  Will they be able to reconcile their differences before one of them is killed?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As an early 2000s production, Mercy Streets has a lot of eccentric elements.  A lot of the time, it seems like this film is trying to mimic some cheesy 80s movie.  Video quality is mostly fine, but camera work is strange, with random and unwanted freeze frames at inconvenient times.  Audio quality is good, however, and the soundtrack is actually effective and interesting.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and authentic.  However, the editing, like the camera work, is also unusual and hampers the viewing experience with odd stop-starts and slow motion.  In the end, this is an ambitious production, but it is stuck at average due to some off-the-wall issues.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Mercy Streets is one of those rare movies wherein the plot is better than the casting.  Though the story is built on a somewhat predictable twin-character-switch premise, it is a still a unique standout among Christian films.  The characters are quirky but are at least interesting and flawed.  Dialogue is all over the place—sometimes creative and sometimes ridiculous.  The twists are not really twists at all, and the ending sequence is a bit confusing at times, but overall, the storyline does not follow a very predictable progression, even though it has some predictable elements.  In the end, this story is worth a rewrite at some point—as long as a different cast was utilized.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is an unusual instance in which the clown cast really drags down the characters and the story.  Unless this movie was supposed to be a comedy, which we don’t think it was, this casting is terrible.  Eric Roberts makes a great comic villain, but not an actual one (although, this is probably his most dedicated performance to date).  David A. R. White can rarely be taken seriously—in this film, it seems like he’s trying to mint his career by copying some iconic performance.  Also, he fulfilled his dream of playing two characters (which he also did later) and laid the groundwork for his later ‘comedy’ preaching.  Need we say anything about Kevin Downes and the others?  This cast really puts a damper on things.

Conclusion

Jon Gunn and his team have always had potential to do something great, but little issues always hold his works back from being great.  But definitely has great things ahead of him if he can continue producing good plots, improve production quality, and find better cast members.  If these three elements come into alignment, there are great things in store for him and his team.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

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The Visitation [2006] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a stranger comes to a small town begins performing miracles, he gains an immediate following.  However, a Baptist pastor and his friends are skeptical of the man, especially as his work grows more and more sinister.  As the town descends into spiritual chaos and demons take over people’s minds, will the Christians be able to stand against the growing evil that threatens the very soul of their town—or they be sucked into evil themselves?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

As an early 2000s Fox Faith production, this team had the resources to make this film at least somewhat professional.  However, the production is neither respectable nor presentable.  It’s an absolute wreck full of cheesy special effects, constant jumps, and epilepsy-inducing flashes.  Camera work is extremely shaky and video quality is very blurry.  The lighting is very inconsistent and the sets, locations, and props are very cheap-looking.  Finally, as previously mentioned, the editing is atrocious, which makes for an unpleasant experience.  In short, there is nothing good whatsoever to say here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Frank Peretti was known in his time as a ground-breaking author who wasn’t afraid to breach different genres, but that doesn’t mean he always wrote good stories.  The Visitation is extremely thin on plot and character development in general.  It is beyond cheesy and includes tons of ridiculous horror elements that make for an extremely confusing and dizzying experience.  It’s really unfair to make someone watch this train wreck of a movie, as it jumps from one thing to the next, leaving the audience in a dazed wake.  It doesn’t even seem like this plot is trying to present a real story but is instead checking the box of having a Christian horror film for the sake of having it.  Needless to say, it doesn’t work—not in the least bit.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s probably safe to say that any cast that involves Randy Travis already has something wrong with it.  Otherwise, this cast is extremely dramatic, with lots of yelling and extreme emotions.  If they were going for a C-grade horror movie, they reached their goal on every single level.

Conclusion

It’s one thing to breach a new genre in Christian film, and it’s entirely another to butcher a film so badly that it creates a laughingstock.  Non-Christians might watch this film because it’s a horror flick, but they will find a total disaster with the name ‘Christian’ stamped on it.  To date, Christian horror is a genre that greatly suffers, but perhaps someone will turn it around one day…soon…

 

Final Rating: -2 out of 10 points

 

The Moment After 2: The Awakening (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After the Rapture, the inevitable one world government materialized and began rounding up the Christians when they wouldn’t take the mark of the beast.  Thus, Christians began to form groups in secret to protect each other from the new one world order.  Former FBI agent Adam Riley, now a resistor, escapes from captivity and sets out to find the truth about the Christians in hiding.  His former partner Charles Baker is also called back to serve the one world order and to search for the elusive Jacob Krause.  As their paths cross once again, choices will be made that will affect them forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

The Awakening is a slight improvement from the first Moment After installment.  Camera work is the most marked improvement, as action scenes are shot better.  Sets and locations are also improved to give the film a bit more of a realistic feel.  Audio quality is fine, but video quality is slightly inconsistent.  Some scenes are not lit as well as others.  The soundtrack is just average.  However, the editing has its positive elements as the story seems to unfold.  In the end, this is an average production, but something is still missing.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Awakening has strong comparisons to Revelation Road and could be considered its predecessor.  As such, there are some intriguing elements in The Awakening, but it’s still not a very dynamic story.  Slightly more effort was put into the complexity of this installment than in the first one, and there is an interesting twist near the end, but there isn’t really much else good to say here.  The characters are still empty and the plot is filled with too many boring and meandering conversations.  The villains are quite cheesy and the apocalyptic elements are, as usual, manufactured.  Also, this film is inevitably continued into nothing, like many apocalyptic efforts after it, thus making the overall story very empty and pointless.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This acting performance is much the same as the first installment, just with an extra dose of Andrea Logan White in all her usual stiffness.  David A. R. White and Kevin Downes are also their usual selves with random outbursts and fake action-guy demeanors.  Brad Heller surprisingly remains sane throughout the film.  Overall, this is just another below-average performance.

Conclusion

Why start a series you never intend to finish?  This incident was not isolated to The Moment After series; the Whites and company repeated this again with Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, and possibly The Mark series as well.  The fate of Revelation Road is still unknown, but the bottom line is that if you keep starting and never finishing the same apocalyptic plots over and over again, there’s a problem.  Rather than constantly flooding the market with half-ideas, how about finishing what you start and actually delivering something original for a change?

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Six: The Mark Unleashed (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In a film market far, far away, before the birth of PureFlix Productions, David A. R. White, Kevin Downes, and Stephen Baldwin (with a cameo from ‘Logan White’) all teamed up to create an apocalyptic film to remember.  This movie was unlike any other and focused on the hard-hitting topic of…the daily ins and outs of a futuristic men’s prison?  Caught in the grip a dictatorial international government and threatened with death in three weeks if they don’t take the Mark of the Beast, the men of the prison are…allowed to walk around however they please and write Bible stuff on the walls?  Busted for smuggling illegal stuff like painkillers and old movies to Eric Roberts and for stealing a pizza, Downes and White are forced to spend their three weeks in a cheesy looking set with a group of Christian prisoners who draw Christian-themed stuff on the walls of the prison without punishment.  Will they ever escape or will they be forced to take the Mark?

 

Production Quality (0 points)

Watching Six: The Mark Unleashed is a surreal experience.  We can’t even believe this thing exists.  Everything about it feels like one big joke.  The fingerprints of Downes and White are all over this one, from the cheesy sets to the poor camera work to the bad lighting.  They went so overboard trying to look futuristic that it comes off as a Star Trek knockoff.  Are we really supposed to believe that the future of the world is peppered with Star Trek wardrobes and buildings?  What’s more, there is no coherent thought to the editing, as a vast majority of the ‘plot’ takes place in a giant concrete box billed as a prison.  Any other elements are completely isolating, as will be discussed next.  In short, this is nothing short of a production disaster, one that should have never been funded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As Downes and White bumble their way through this ‘plot’, many characters are introduced and then quickly discarded with no explanation.  Vague concepts are constantly referred to that isolate the audience.  After being arrested and spending tons of time in the prison reading stuff off of darkly lit walls and talking to mysteriously creepy Baldwin, Downes and White employ absurd tactics to escape the freakishly bald Brad Heller, such as hacking using Tommy Blaze keyboard gymnastics and calling on an enigmatic figure to help them get to ‘the walled city’.  But never fear, for Brad Heller’s ‘spiritual bloodhounds’ are quick on their tails.  Do you get the picture of how ridiculous this ‘plot’ is?  By the end of the movie, there are more questions than answers.  What’s the deal with that one prisoner who sometimes acts as a double agent?  What ever happened to Eric Roberts’ smuggling business?  How did the people in the tent city escape the dictatorial rule?  Who’s Rahab and where did she come from and why do we care?  Why is Brad Heller wearing so much eye makeup?  Yet in the wake of all of this, the prologue and the epilogue of the film actually demonstrate a stroke of creative genius; they are likely the reason why this horrifying mess was even made in the first place.  It’s just too bad that they get lost in the swamp of nonsense.  In short, it is extremely unclear what type of message is supposed to be conveyed in this film, as the plot is very disjointed and schizophrenic.  Stuff like this makes you wonder how White and Downes ever made it anywhere in filmmaking.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It’s no surprise that the acting of this film is just ridiculous.  Emotions are extremely awkward and too many cast members are trying to be mysterious action heroes.  No coaching is employed as line delivery is forced and disingenuous.  Some lines are horribly slurred and annunciation is inconsistent.  Basically, no effort was put into acting, just like the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Is any movie viewer supposed to take this film seriously?  It’s so absurd and out of touch that I would be embarrassed to recommend it to someone or even admit that it is supposed to be a Christian film.  What is gained from this level of immaturity?  Are we supposed to applaud the effort lest we be condemned for persecuting Christians or for not standing with ‘our own’?  Are Christian films allowed to be however poor quality they wish yet still be promoted in Christian circles?  We say no.  The line must be drawn somewhere.  Someone must hold filmmakers who claim the name of Christ to a higher standard if we ever expect to impact the field for Him.  Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves about the good things we do and making money off of it while the world looks on in disgust and\or confusion.

 

Final Rating: .5 out of 10 points