This film has just been released on DVD and I watched it last night. It is a comedy-thriller with a religious backdrop, starring Pierce Brosnan as the charismatic Pastor Dan of a megachurch who has grandiose plans to create his own self-contained city based on Christian principles.
The film starts with a debate featuring him against an outspoken atheist professor in a university (played by Ed Harris). Challenged by Harris during the debate to provide evidence of god, Brosnan turns the spotlight on to Greg Kinnear in the audience, a former Grateful Dead groupie, whose life transformation is to him clear evidence. Kinnear’s is a typical tale of redemption, of one who changes his drug-addled wasted life after finding Jesus, which happened after he met Jennifer Connelly, a devoted worshipper in Brosnan’s church who seems to have a major crush on her pastor.
A post-debate private meeting of Brosnan, Harris, and Kinnear in the professor’s office goes horribly awry and sets the stage for what follows, with Kinnear becoming the hapless victim of people who either want to kill him because they think they are serving god by doing so or using him as a means of getting at the pastor. Only Marisa Tomei, as a campus security officer and fellow former Deadhead, believes his story and tries to help him.
What I don’t understand is why the film is not better known. I learned about it purely by accident although I tend to follow the release of new films and read their reviews. It was released in July 2011 without any publicity in only four theaters nationwide, grossing a mere $28,468 before being yanked altogether, a surprisingly low-key release for a major film. It cost only $5.5 million to make, suggesting that the main actors, all well-established stars, were partly doing it because they liked the script.
It may be that the pre-release and initial reviews were bad enough that the producers decided to go to video. That’s too bad because I thought the film was pretty entertaining and the excellent cast turned in solid performances.
The writers avoided the trap of making the main characters into caricatures beyond that necessary for comedic effect. The pastor and his followers are true believers, not frauds, who genuinely believe they are doing god’s work even when they are engaged in criminal activity, and the type of justifications they proffer will sound familiar to anyone who has spoken with such people or followed their actions and words in the news.
Here’s the trailer: