Movie Review: What’s the Deal with “Nefarious?”

“Nefarious” is a simple two-hander about a psychological/theological debate between a condemned mass murderer who says he’s possessed by a demon and the atheist psychologist sent to determine if he’s sane enough to execute.

If the dialogue is compelling, the stakes are interesting and the performances engage, movies built on one-on-one conversations can work. But this isn’t “Before Sunrise” or “My Dinner with Andre” or “The Interview” or “Malcolm & Marie,” or a movie adapted from a polished and successful play of the “‘night Mother” or “Frankie and Johnny and the ‘Claire de Lune'” variety.

These two cardboard characters in this crucible, grinding away at their disagreement is just boring.

C-movie staple Sean Patrick Flanery plays the “possessed” man as a whimpering stutterer who becomes a manic blinking “servant” of “My Master” who pontificates as he spits out dog whistles about “the movies” and “the media” and judgements about how that feeds humanity’s eagerness to give itself over to “evil.” Our serial killer works for The Evil One.

“‘He’ made you in His image, WE remade you in ours.”

The condemned Edward Wayne Brady, whose name adheres to the “Wayne/Lee/Ray” rule, weeps at not being in control the few times the demon lets “him” speak. The demon claims his real name is an “ancient Phoenecian” word the multi-degree psychotherapist James (Jordan Belfi, look at all the movies he’s been in that no one has bothered to review) could “never pronounce.”

But the Latin version of that Phoenician name translates as “Nefarious.” Our “demon” likes his Latin.

“Edward” doesn’t want to die. But Blinking Beelzebub is just waiting for “The Sizzle,” “a little barbecue,” that frying feeling a fellow gets in the electric chair, which is his chosen method of execution here in Godfearing Oklahoma.

“I don’t like needles” is the film’s sole funny line.

He proceeds to launch into measured, level-voiced monologues that explain why he arranged for this shrink to replace the earlier state appointed doctor, whom we’ve seen commit suicide, which “Nefarious” caused. He drones and blinks on about how he knows everything about head-doctor James and how he wants him to publish his manifesto, a self-penned book on evil and why folks should give themselves over to it.

“Death doesn’t scare me, James. Because I can’t die!”

The movie becomes a battle of wills as our combatants talk talk talk in circles around “belief” and “evil” and the prophecy that James “will have committed three murders” before this day-of-execution evaluation is done.

“I didn’t think this was a fight.”

“That’s why you’re losing!”

That is the entire “point” here, if indeed you can say this movie has one. But there’s no “debate,” just an all-knowing “evil” laying out ultra-conservative Christian doctrine, straw man arguments, occasionally quoting scripture (not much) as he spits out his disdain for humanity, “The Enemy” (God) and “The Carpenter” (you know who).

It’s from the guys who scripted the “God’s Not Dead” movies, one of the angrier faith-based movies of recent vintage, which suggests its testy testimonial tone and its quality.

A chaplain is introduced and abruptly dismissed and hot button far right issues are trotted out in their marching order — abortion, capital punishment, death with dignity stripped of any euphemistic sugar-coating.

It occured to me while watching that I was listening to a screenwritten version of that classic put-down invented for the ex-Congressman aptly-named for a reptilian amphibian. Mr Nefarious is “a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.” The acting class 101 blinking just doubles down on that.

The only thing not covered in this Christo-fascist manifesto of a movie is “guns.” But that’s covered in a trailer to a “They’re a’comin’ fer our GUNS” 2024 release, “The Last Patriot,” attached to screenings of “Nefarious.”

It fails as horror and as a laughably-loaded discourse on religion, values and the one subject it might have rigorously addressed, capital punishment. Because it’s much easier to be smug and deal your screen written cards from a stacked deck than it is to admit that your “debate” is lame brained cowardice because you can’t allow smarter people to offer the rubes who buy into this alternative ideas.

“Nefarious” tips its hand early, as our academically-endorsed psychotherapist drives through crowds of pro and con death penalty protesters at the prison. He’s listening to a talk show whose false prophet/pro execution host is baying for death penalty blood in the unmistakable tones of a certain cherubic Goldline Bullion hustler and peddler of white fear and under-educated outrage.

Wait, Glenn Beck’s still around? I had no… But yes, the flip-flopping fascist is on the radio, and ready for his third act on screen endorsement of this talk-you-to-death tripe. SOMEbody’s going to be on his video podcast for the finale.

Golly, in Oklahoma, even the medically-educated follow Glenn Beck!

The acting ranges from adequate to laughable, and the direction cannot overcome the atonal screech of the screenwriting.

Still, as old Abe Lincoln once said, “People who like this sort of thing might find it the sort of thing they like,” which explains the FBI Jan. 6 watch list audience I viewed “Nefarious” with in suburban Florida. The only reviewers endorsing it are “fellow travelers.”

The sentient, the sane and the non-cynical may find it as awful as I did.

Rating: R (Disturbing Violent Content)

Cast: Sean Patrick Flanery, Jordan Belfi, Tom Ohmer and Glenn Beck.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Cary Solomon, Chuck Konzelman. An SDG (Soli Deo Gloria Releasing)/Believe Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:38


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.