“[Viewers] who just wanted some simple, thought-provoking entertainment will be bored and tested by the film’s efforts to make interesting content almost intolerable in its dry and impotent examination.”

 

by Steve Pulaski

Persecuted is a tired collection of political cliches, religious cliches, and thriller cliches, all meshed together to bring about the dullest, most intolerable film of the year. Fifteen minutes into the film, I already began to squirm, mainly because of the empty characters, spouting nothing but empty slogans and manufactured emotions about the church and politics along with the nudging idea that somehow writer/director Daniel Lusko may be trying to orchestrate some sort of civilian uprising in America.

Think about it; the film is about the persecution of religious freedom in America, a country founded on the belief one could say what they want and believe what they want without the worry that they themselves would be imprisoned based upon their opinions or beliefs. The film frequently brings this idea up, showcases a framed evangelist fighting back to a group of Secret Service goons who want him dead for his lack of cooperation on sweeping religious reform in America, and the film even ends by proudly displaying the thirteen-star, Betsy Ross American flag. However, by the time the credits rolled, and the lights went up in the theater, I was still the only patron in the entire movie theater, and I walked out with the motivation not to grab my pitchfork but to grab a ticket for a better film.

Persecuted
Written & Directed by
Daniel Lusko
Cast
James Remar, Dean Stockwell, Raoul Trujillo
Release Date
18 July 2014
Steve’s Grade: D-

As stated, the film stars James Remar as John Luther, America’s leading evangelist, with a televised ministry that reaches more people than the evening news. Luther is a reformed drug addict and alcoholic, stating he deserved nothing less than death when God entered his life. Luther has become the main target for Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison), who is campaigning to pass his religious reformation bill the Faith and Fairness Act, which Luther feels compromises the very basic ideas of Christianity and silences his voice. When Luther refuses, Harrison hires goons to frame Luther for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, in turn making him a fugitive from the law and the main target for Secret Service men who are out to kill him in cold blood.

For one, we’re never given accurate insight as to what the Faith and Fairness Act really even is. Harrison says it’s to treat all religions in the United States as equal religions, whatever that means, but Luther says it compromises everything Christianity stands for and diminishes his power as an evangelist. It’d be nice if we could see a news report that gives a basic outline of the bill, since we’re really just hearing it from two biased accounts. Secondly, how does framing Luther and destroying his reputation result in him giving support to this particular bill? If Harrison needs his blessing, why, after saying no, does he not invite him to lunch or something to talk over the bill, maybe even sweeten the deal with a kickback or two? Why does he instantaneously call his people to hurt and slander Luther’s name?


Finally, the idea of any religious persecution, or the suggestion of that matter in America, is downright silly and seems to stem from a bitter frustration amongst religious groups that don’t feel their immediate needs are being met politically. We can say we’re talking from a religious standpoint all we want, but it seems that the real core frustration with the religious populous today is they feel America is turning into a more “secular” nation, turning away from religion and operating in a way that makes an attempt to prove moral good without the foundation of a religious belief. This isn’t persecution but an alternate method of thinking and practice. Lusko’s Persecuted seems to stem from the idea that the needs of the religious are being neglected in political office and that the Christians are going to be the next target in big government’s operation against the people. This is insulting to country’s that actually face religious persecution, where players of the wrong game are put to death or extinguished through methods of violent genocide, while Christians in America seem to label persecution as the thought that the famous Leviticus verse in the Bible isn’t utilized in a presidential debate against gay marriage. If somebody in the country Iran or Nigeria saw this film, I have no doubt they’d be offended or horrified, rightfully so.

On top of that, the film could be somewhat forgivable if it wasn’t so dry and boring. Characters in the film lack any discernible personality, speaking entirely in plotpoints and cheap quotes about religion’s interference with politics or lack thereof. Our core character Luther doesn’t even have any intriguing traits to admire, as he is just a bland, “persecuted” evangelist simply trying to go about his way and preach the gospel on TV if it wasn’t for this vague act that’s about to be passed.

Persecuted has been compared to the likes of other films that bear an either Conservative or Christian viewpoint, such as Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine a World Without Her, Atlas Shrugged, and God’s Not Dead in the regard that they preach to the choir. The audience who will buy a ticket to Persecuted will gleefully hear their own opinions and ideology replicated on-screen, while others will sneer and voice their critiques accordingly. Others, like myself, who just wanted some simple, thought-provoking entertainment will be bored and tested by the film’s efforts to make interesting content almost intolerable in its dry and impotent examination.