Wednesday, 19 April 2017

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: JESUS, BRO!


29. “Folks, the power of prayer is real. I can blow people up!”



19/04/2017




I should start by saying I did put a small amount of money into the online campaign for the film I am reviewing, in return for a copy of the finished film. This is a film I hoped it would be made – that it turned out to be well worth watching is a bonus.

In 1968, the exploitation filmmaker Vittorio Di Naro, better known as Ron Ormond, survived a plane crash, and devoted his time to making Christian scare films.

In 2016, the exploitation filmmaker Brad Jones, better known as The Cinema Snob, survived an onslaught of Christian scare films, and wrote a comedy satire in return, with director Ryan Mitchelle, that puts its hero on far more of a journey than those they set out to parody.

It does not matter if you have not seen the films “Jesus, Bro!” is satirising – like country music, they seem to exist in a parallel universe – but knowing they exist explains the leaps in logic the story makes. Only in a world where a Jesus-Santa hybrid and the Devil make bets between themselves, like it was Ancient Greece, can an atheist video blogger, having won the “Atheist of the Year” prize, have a vision where they must convert people to Christianity in order to get their girlfriend back, and if they don’t convert, they will spontaneously combust. The faith of people is not questioned, only the decisions they think it allows them to make.


Unlike the targets of “Jesus, Bro!”, this film’s hero, Rick Whitehead, actually goes on a journey. In his guise, as “The Rickhead,” his online rants preach to the converted, but also has an eye on his views being “liked,” in particular by his friend Carlos. However, failing to sympathise with his girlfriend Elizabeth leads to the divine quest to get her back, even if it does involve physical attacks and, even worse, his videos being down-voted.

The performances in this film have one eye on parody, but they are both grounded and accomplished. As Rick, David Gobble engages us with someone that we grow to like, while also holding the emotional centre; Fard Muhammad, as Carlos, has the perfect sidekick’s laugh, hinting at an underlying tension within himself; Allison Pregler, as Elizabeth, deftly deals with over-explanatory  dialogue that could have been written by George Lucas; Robert Walker makes you believe there is such a thing as “Santa Christ;” while Brad Jones, as Rick’s brother Willy, runs away with his scenes, particularly in a gag at the film’s end.

In all, this film will make you laugh, and anyone who could possibly be offended by its subject matter will find they are in it. For a film that raised its budget through an online campaign, its production values are on a par with its targets, a professional veneer that makes the ever-loopier plot all the funnier. The spirit and hard work of the “Jesus, Bro!” team is a good omen for anything they have planned in the future.

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