Salvation Boulevard: Sundance Review

Mandalay Pictures
Silly cat-and-mouse comedy doesn't make much of its evangelist-mocking premise.

Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connolly star in this lightweight farce that manages to turn even dignified Ciaran Hinds into a ham.

PARK CITY -- (Premieres) A lightweight farce involving a pious wrongdoer and the blind supporters who enable him, Salvation Boulevard doesn't have nearly as much to say about religion as it suggests. Star-stocked and goofy enough to get an audience chuckling, it might draw ticket buyers to theaters but will have short legs.

Its most biting insight comes late, and from an unexpected source, as a camcorder-toting peeping Tom notes, "When you follow a preacher, eventually you're going to get something amazing."

But the scandal in Boulevard isn't one of those inevitable results of fundamental hypocrisy -- a gay sex scandal involving an anti-gay-marriage minister, say. Instead, it springs from a dumb accident and is driven by garden-variety cowardice: When celebrity pastor Dan Day (Pierce Brosnan) accidentally kills an atheist intellectual (Ed Harris) during a friendly discussion, he tries first to make it look like suicide and then to pin it on Carl (Greg Kinnear), a dimwitted member of his congregation who, as it turns out, is no more eager to go to jail than Day is.

The action that follows is as broad and unconvincing as the characters involved: director George Ratliff manages to turn even dignified Ciaran Hinds into a ham, and can't ground the action enough to make us believe, say, the ease with which Carl's wife (Jennifer Connelly) is convinced that her husband has become a crazed killer.

The screenplay offers a couple of potentially juicy complications -- Pastor Day's delusion that Satan is contacting him, for instance, and the barely-concealed lust he feels for Carl's wife -- but fumbles with most of them, barely managing to stay coherent up to an ending that, weirdly, tosses in some divine intervention after mocking believers for an hour and a half.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Premieres
Production Company: Mandalay Vision
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, Isabelle Fuhrman, Ciaran Hinds, Jim Gaffigan, Yul Vazquez
Director-Screenwriter: George Ratliff
Screenwriter: Doug Max Stone (based on the novel by Larry Beinhart)
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Celine Rattray, Peter Fruchtman
Executive producers: Gary Hamilton, Victor Syrmis, Scarlett Lacey, Andrew Sawyer, Neil Katz, Nicholas Simunek, Michael Bassick, Kirk D'Amico
Director of photography: Tim Orr
Production designer: Clark Hunter
Music: George S. Clinton
Costume designer: Lynne Falconer
Editor: Michael LaHaie
Sales: United Talent Agency
No rating, 95 minutes