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NEW YORK — This faith-based drama is the latest and most ambitious effort from Sherwood Pictures, the filmmaking offshoot of Albany, Georgia’s Sherwood Church. Like their previous independent hits, Facing the Giants and Fireproof, Courageous seems well poised to tap into a theatrical market starved for such fare, with even greater potential for DVD sales.
Another collaboration between brothers Alex (director, co-writer, actor) and Stephen Kendrick (producer, co-writer), the film is set in the small town of Albany and concerns the interactions among four sheriff’s deputies and a Hispanic immigrant desperate for work. The theme — hammered home repeatedly — is fatherhood, and the responsibilities that come with it.
Courageousreveals the duo’s growing expertise as filmmakers with its skillful blending of moving drama, subtle comedy and several impressive action sequences, including a well-staged foot chase and a harrowing shootout between the cops and bad guys.
The characters are complex and well-drawn, struggling with various personal issues that test their faith and character in believable ways. But the episodic and frequently melodramatic storyline contains enough incidents and subplots to fill an entire television season. A key story element — involving the male characters pledging to sign a “resolution” affirming their fatherly duties and their faith in God — seems both artificial and a cribbing from the “Love Dare” featured so prominently in Fireproof.
The performances are effective all around with director Kendrick quite moving in the central role of Adam, the veteran officer, who suffers a horrific family tragedy that sets much of the film’s plot in motion.
Non-Christian audiences may be put off by the endless proselytizing on display, which feels more drawn out and overt here than in the church’s previous films. But the generous laughter, cheers and applause generated by the crowd at an opening day screening demonstrate that these enterprising Baptist filmmakers clearly know their audience.
Opened Sept. 30 (TriStar Pictures)
Production company: Sherwood Pictures.
Cast: Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel, Ben Davies, Kevin Downes, T.C. Stallings, Rusty Martin.
Director: Alex Kendrick.
Screenwriters: Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick.
Producer: Stephen Kendrick.
Executive producers: Michael Catt, Jim McBride.
Director of photography: Bob Scott.
Editors: Bill Ebel, Steve Hullfish, Alex Kendrick.
Production designer: Darian Corley.
Music: Mark Willard.
Rated PG-13, 129 minutes.
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