'Persecuted': Film Review
July 18 (Millenium Entertainment)
Fred Dalton Thompson
A famous evangelist is framed for murder in Daniel Lusko's faith-based thriller.
A prominent evangelist takes it on the lam after being framed for murder in a thriller from Daniel Lusko that doesn’t exactly erase memories of The Fugitive. The latest in a string of faith-based movies purporting that Christianity is under attack in America, Persecuted squanders the talents of its impressive cast—including James Remar, Bruce Davison, Fred Dalton Thompson and Dean Stockwell—with its bizarre premise and inept execution. Even religious-minded audiences are likely to roll their eyes in disbelief.
Remar plays the not so subtly named John Luther, a television preacher hailed as “God’s Ambassador” whose fame and influence make him an essential political tool for Senator Donald Harrison (Davison) in his efforts to get his “Faith and Fairness Act” through Congress. The ill-defined bill, having something to do with providing equal standing to all religions, doesn’t sit well with the Christian Luther, who refuses to cooperate.
Since the action takes place in the sort of cinematic Washington, D.C., where political conflicts are resolved through heinous criminal acts, Luther soon finds himself drugged and framed for the murder of a young girl by nefarious Secret Service agents. He’s forced to go on the run while attempting to find the evidence that would prove his innocence, even while his ministry is being taken over by his opportunistic second-in-command (played by conservative Christian comedian Brad Stine).
His religious background having somehow prepared him for being an expert at eluding the authorities and avoiding detection even though he's world-famous, Luther turns to his Catholic priest father (Thompson) for help. But as anyone who’s seen any paranoid conspiracy thriller can no doubt guess, things don’t go well for his would-be ally.
By the time the film reaches its violent conclusion, Luther, armed with rosary beads and a gun, is forced to take matters into his own hands.
Besides a vaguely sinister Bill Clinton-like president, the film’s chief villain is the senator prone to making such announcements as “This is no longer a Christian nation” and who, when advised by Luther to “remember what the Lord said,” snappily replies, “Oh, stop with the Lord!”
Featuring Fox News Channel personality Gretchen Carlson as a television news anchor, the not so fair and balanced film might have made its religious themes palatable if it worked reasonably well as a thriller. But director/screenwriter Lusko shows no flair for the genre, his muddled execution lacking any sense of pacing or suspense.
Production: One Media
Cast: James Remar, Bruce Davison, Dean Stockwell, Raoul Trujillo, Fred Dalton Thompson, Brad Stine
Director/screenwriter: Daniel Lusko
Producers: Daniel Lusko, James R. Higgins
Executive producers: Gray Frederickson, Jerry D. Simmons
Director of photography: Richard J. Vialet
Editor: Brian Brinkman
Production designer: mark Alan Duran
Costume designer: Barcie Waite
Composer: Chris Ridenhour
Rated PG-13, 91 min.