The Grace Card: Film Review

Despite its lapse into melodrama, this faith-based drama is surprisingly effective.

Clearly inspired by the success of such independent films as Fireproof, The Grace Card is a surprisingly hard-edged, faith-based drama that should well satisfy its target audience, even if crossover prospects seem limited. This tale of a Memphis cop finding spiritual redemption in the face of a family crisis suffers from a late act lapse into melodrama, but it offers some potent dramatic moments along the way.

Actor-comedian Michael Joiner delivers a powerfully intense performance as “Mack” MacDonald, still grieving over the loss of his young son many years earlier. The young boy was run over by an African-American criminal fleeing the scene of a crime, resulting in his father becoming a bitter racist.

So he’s particularly incensed when he’s passed over for a long overdue promotion in favor of Sam (Michael Higgenbottom), a black fellow officer who also happens to be a preacher. When the two become temporary partners, Mack’s prejudice inevitably rises to the surface.

Sam is also conflicted, unable to decide whether to pursue his career in law enforcement or devote himself full time to the pulpit.

It isn’t until a violent tragedy occurs involving Mack’s estranged teenage son (Rob Erickson), who has turned to drugs and crime as a result of his father’s anger issues, that the two men form a bond that leads Mack to reappraise his values and learn to embrace the concept of forgiveness.

Directed by first-time filmmaker Dr. David Evans (moonlighting from his day job as an optometrist) and written by Hollywood veteran Howard A. Klausner (Space Cowboys), the film has its heavy-handed moments, such as the frequent spiritual advice offered by Sam’s grandfather (Louis Gossett Jr.). But for the most part the dialogue is convincing and the characterizations surprisingly complex, with Sam’s struggle to reconcile his Christian values with his anger over his partner’s racist attitudes being particularly moving.

Although it features a largely non-professional cast and crew — Joy Moore, who plays Mack’s wife, is an elementary school teacher here making an impressive acting debut — the film boasts excellent production values, especially DP John Paul Clark’s lensing of the suitably gritty Memphis locations.

Opens: Friday, Feb. 25 (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Production: Graceworks Pictures, Calvary Pictures
Cast: Michael Joiner, Michael Higgenbottom, Louis Gossett Jr., Joy Moore, Dawntoya Thompson, Rob Erickson, Cindy Hodge
Director: Dr. David Evans
Screenplay: Howard A. Klausner
Executive producers: Dr. David Evans, Esther Evans
Producers: Howard A. Klausner, John Saunders, John Nasraway
Director of photography: John Paul Clark
Music: Brent Rowan
Production designer: Darian Corley
Costume designer: Lisa Byrd Thomas
Rated PG-13, 101 minutes