Movie Review: “Persecuted”

perscThe unholy bond between religion and politics is the background for “Persecuted,” a confused and confusing thriller about a TV preacher ruined by a sinister government plot.
Written and directed by Daniel Lusko, who has Christian documentaries among his credits, and having ex-GOP senator Fred Dalton Thompson and Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson in its cast, you can guess its politics.
But the targets are less clearly defined than you might expect. There are evil Feds, and righteous ones. There are veiled attacks on a Congressional effort to give all religions equal standing, and Federal tax money. The president is a devious Clinton look-alike. But Big Time Religion takes it on the chin, too. The most sinister scenes in it take place in the boardroom of a multi-million dollar TV ministry.
So, “Fair and balanced,” right? Not exactly.
James Remar, who broke out in films 35 years ago with “The Warriors” and later as the villain of “48 Hours,” is cast against type as John Luther, an ex-drug addict who now leads Truth Live!, a crusade that he aims to keep above politics, above religious denominations.
Sinister Senator Harrison (Bruce Davison) is pressuring Luther to endorse The Faith and Fairness Act, something backed by a Coexista-oriented organization called SUMAC. It’s incredibly vague what this will do, but it seems to be some sort of religious tolerance/equality act that will give all religions equal standing and all religions equal access to adherents to other faiths. Luther isn’t having it. But he’s been warned.
A drive home takes a turn toward the honey trap they’ve set for him. A girl dies. Luther is on the lam, hunted by the law, as his ministry tumbles into the hands of his opportunistic second-in-command (Christian comic Brad Stine, pretty good).
Luther turns to his wise old dad (Thompson), who happens to be a Catholic priest, another bit of back story that is unexplained.
“Those who believe in nothing must bring you down,” Dad warns. “You’re just a pawn in a political game.”
The safe way to approach this is as the thriller it is supposed to be, and as such, “Persecuted” is pretty limp. There’s no urgency to the performances, no ticking clock to Luther’s desperate bid to clear his name. Remar, a fine character actor, is utterly miscast as a preacher. He doesn’t have the pulpit presence.
Cops don’t stop to question a guy (Luther) sitting in a darkened car, wearing a hoodie and watching a suburban house, even though they see him. A hotel clerk is so anxious to turn Luther in that she dials up the cops while Luther is waiting for his room key. Missteps like that abound.
More interesting are Luther’s repeated entreaties to a supernatural being that isn’t keeping him or his family safe, shouted prayers that go unanswered. Luther, however, doesn’t lose faith, even when he’s confronting the Senator.
“Remember what the Lord said…”
“Oh STOP with the Lord!”
This slapdash script fail to articulate its basic complaint or identify who, exactly, is persecuting them. Government? The culture? Liberals? Humanists? Jews? U-2’s Bono, champion of the Coexista bumper-sticker?
You wonder, because you can’t help but notice this movie’s almost all-white cast around the time we see the evangelical son of the Catholic priest rub his Rosary beads one last time, and pick up a gun.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and thematic elements
Cast: James Remar, Bruce Davison, Fred Dalton Thompson, Gretchen Carlson, Brad Stine
Credits: Written and directed by Daniel Lusko. A Millennium release.
Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Movie Review: “Persecuted”

  1. K Fry says:

    “Oh STOP with the Lord!” – Great critical evaluation based alone on the fact that you don’t believe in God!

    • It’s a quote from the movie, dear. Played for a laugh. Take a breath.

    • Lazslo Toth says:

      Yup, that’s about the knee-jerk reaction we were expecting. Let’s face it NOTHING is going to convince the true believers that we’re totally sincere and this is just a really terrible film.

  2. Grisha Tamarchenko says:

    “all-white cast”? borderline rascist comment there (no matter what color you are). Dont see where you’re going with that

    • Newsflash sparky, the all-white cast points the racist finger at the filmmakers, and their target audience.

    • Lazslo Toth says:

      Explain to us, Grisha, precisely how it’s racist of the reviewer to point this fact out, instead of racist of the filmmakers not to include any major minority characters. Extra points if you can use the phrase “reverse racism”; I still have a few square to fill on my Inane Right Wing Talking Points bingo card this week.

    • HankHammer says:

      We must understand that, to the target audience, heaven is whites being waited upon by minority staff, everyone carrying guns, material possessions stacked to infinity, constant singing of hymns to a (white) Jesus, and huge HD screens showing liberals (along with movie critics like Roger Moore) suffering in hell. Yeah, that’s some afterlife to look forward to. Worth whatever persecution you endure, for sure.

  3. Chuck Jones says:

    Well, Lazlo, my fine friend, perhaps you can explain WHY the should have major minority characters? The reviewer mentions a “nearly all-white cast”…not an exclusively majority cast. Should a movie focusing on minority characters be forced to include “majority” characters just to satisfy Lazlo’s and roger’s politically correct sensibilities? Hey, pals…try to be a little more subtle when displaying your axes to grind. But thanks for pointing out that Kurosawa was a racist…after all, I can’t remember many “white” [sic] characters in my many Criterions from him.

    • It’s worth mentioning, Chuckles, because a movie set in DC politics, media and religion only has a couple of late third act African American law enforcement folk. It starts to stand out when our persecuted preacher stumbles through a cityscape that’s lily white and his supposedly inclusive and influential ministry has a board of directors that looks like IBM in the ’50s.
      Defending “Persecuted” with Kurosawa is all the more laughable because his films, mostly period pieces, come from the world’s most racist monoculture — Japan. Or did you miss that?

  4. brbr2424 says:

    It should not go unnoticed that another gem that came from the fevered mind of the fundamentalist “film maker” is a woman and an incidence of fake rape pinned on the man of the cloth. An illegitimate rape – is there any other kind? I don’t plan on seeing the movie but you would think the filmmaker would show how her body shuts the whole thing down. Oh yeah, it was an illegitimate rape. Duh.

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