One Media and Millennium Entertainment have come together to produce Persecuted, a new Christian film attempting to fuse a drama thriller with a politically engulfed mantra. The movie premiered on July 18 and was written and directed by Daniel Lusko (Epicenter, 2007; Riptide, 2010).
Evangelist John Luther (James Remar) is the head of an international ministry, but when he refuses to support a legislation that his long-time friend, Senate Majority Leader Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison) is backing, Harrison creates a plan to frame Luther and ruin his reputation. Now Luther is on the run and out to prove his innocence and uncover the truth. The film opens with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. – “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” Luther may soon find something to live and die for.
Persecuted was well cast with Remar, Davison, and Fred Dalton Thompson standing out above the rest. Other notable actors include Brad Stine, Dean Stockwell, Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson and even Natalie Grant.
The film’s best lines come from Luther (Remar) and showcase precisely crafted dialogue that spark a plethora of thoughts and emotions from viewers in regards to faith, freedom and morality, such as, “I cannot water down the gospel to advance anybody’s political agenda.” The resolve of Luther is piercing and at times inspiring.
Personally, I thought the best aspect of the film was the cinematography. The artistry is fairly refreshing and offers scenes full of symbolism.
The original premise of the film is intriguing, and I believe the filmmakers were heading in the right direction. But ultimately, the film simply does not deliver. I had a hard time finding positive reviews anywhere. The plot is splotchy and at times seems non-existent. There is no true arc for any of the characters, who are distant and unrelatable. So many scenes just leave the viewer puzzled. This bewilderment does not diminish when the credits begin to role either, leaving more plot holes than a block of Swiss cheese.
The film is advertised as a dystopian future America in which religious freedoms are restricted and Christians are facing severe persecution. But this is not at all the story of the movie. In reality, it is not about Christians being persecuted, but a personal vendetta against one Christian. Furthermore, it is not clear who the movie is intended for. The movie previews were all children’s films, yet Persecuted is certainly not for children with its PG-13 rating.
This film had no shortage of investment. A star cast and production team along with the backings of likes such as Gray Frederickson (produced The Godfather) would seem to be a formula for success. But the film seems to trip over common stumbling blocks—being plot-driven and agenda-ridden. A movie, at its core, is the art of story-telling. And story-telling is all about writing good characters and putting them in situations to grow as people. Far too many Christian films (and secular films for that matter) are forced, cramming in every political issue and coming off as abrasive.
I hope that the Christian community can continue to create good stories, and that Christian filmmakers will begin to make more character-based movies. Idea: write biblical movies. The book of Judges alone could make for a phenomenal franchise in ancient war films while still encompassing the themes of God, faith, and justice. Just a thought.
Finley is a recent Master’s graduate from Liberty University. He can be reached at: [email protected]“