Here we are, you guys: The Appointment, about the hellbound reporter lady.
I suppose I’ll give credit right away: this movie actually centers around a woman. A single, sinful, atheist woman, mind you, but a woman all the same.
Written, produced, and directed by Rich Christiano, of (most recently) Time Changer fame. In our timeline of Christian(o) films, The Appointment came out a few years after The Pretender, and right before Second Glance.
Much like Pamela’s Prayer and The Pretender, The Appointment stars a bunch of people we’ve never heard of before. These were Ye Olden Days of Christian films, when starring in them was a one-way ticket to nowhere, not an indication that you are a former B-lister who can’t get work anywhere else.
It’s kinda fun that we’re hitting this movie right after Six: The Mark Unleashed, because it really does show how far the genre has come: quite a long ways in terms of effects and getting name actors, not so far in terms of storytelling or offensive theology.
It doesn’t help one tiny little bit that the movie opens with two of the worst actors I have ever had the privilege of seeing here. They are a pastor and his wife (we know this because they declare it VERY LOUDLY to each other), and their purpose is to introduce us to the writings of our main character, a newspaper columnist.
Seriously, I hate to harp on this, but these people cannot convincingly wish each other a good morning.
Plus, it would have been much more effective to simply skip the bit with this couple and start with the next bit—shots of people from all walks of life reading the paper, as the writer reads her words in voiceover:
At last count, there were nearly 400 denominations of the Christian Church in America. Weren’t there only twelve apostles? You’d think there’d be only twelve groups.
*snicker* I kinda like this lady.
But more denominations mean more churches, which mean more jobs for those fast-talking, three-piece-suited prophets of God called preachers, where the love of money seems to be the root of all their sermons. I’ll support the United Way any day. There may be a god, but the hypocrites playing church are giving him a bad name. Let’s get on with our programs of feeding the poor, housing the homeless, and reforming the downtrodden. Then, issue them this warning: stay out of a church, because if you go there, you’ll end up more messed up than you were before. Amen, brother?
Honestly, this is not so bad. Coming on the heels of Six and Brody’s and Jeseca’s views on those who believe in Jesus, it’s downright tame. Nonetheless, we cut to the newspaper office, where our anti-heroine, Liz, is fielding her fourteenth critical phone call of the day. She is nonplussed by this, though, as are her (largely) nonbelieving coworkers.
Nameless coworker: Some people take their religion too seriously.
The one exception to this is clean-cut young Eric, who whines that Liz “keeps going after the religious issue.” Um, yeah. Seems to be working out for her, what with being the most-read columnist in town and all.
Vaguely angelic music plays as a POV shot crosses the street to the newspaper office…
…and a coworker asks Liz out.
Is this as bizarre a conversation as I think it is?
Bill: Hey, Liz. What’re you doing Friday night?
Liz: Hey, Bill.
Bill: I have it all planned: we’ll have dinner, I have tickets to a play—
Bill: Liz, we’ll have a great time—
Liz: How old are you?
Liz: Bye-ee. *wanders off*
Bill: *calls after her* Thirty-one?
There is no possible way Liz could be more casual about this, btw. The “no” and “bye” are practically sing-songed. And, not for nothing, but why is thirty-four too old for her? Liz looks to be around that age herself.
I admit I don’t get it.
POV Shot enters the elevator. Angelic music continues…
Liz arrives in her office and rips the date off her calendar—it’s September 11th.
Damn, remember when that date wasn’t automatically ominous?
(It’s a Tuesday, in case anyone is interested. The Appointment came out in 1991, but is obviously set in 1990.)
(And it looks like it was shot in 1983.)
Angelic POV Shot wanders around, and an employee asks if he can help him.
Shouldn’t the angel (or whatever) know everything anyway? Like exactly where Liz’s office is?
Angelic POV Shot manages to find his way there, and confronts Liz. (You can see the main thrust of the conversation in the trailer.)
Angelic POV Shot: I have a message for you; it’s from the lord.
Liz: Lord Who?
APS: The Lord Jesus Christ.
APS: Liz, on September 19th at 6:05 p.m., you are going to die.
Damn. And, just as with getting asked out, Liz is almost comically blasé about it.
Though at least she acknowledges that it is a threat.
Liz: Nobody’s threatened me quite like you have. … If you’d like to file your opinion with the editor, his office is right down the hall.
APS: I’m not here to threaten you, Liz.
YOU JUST DID!!!
But here’s the weird thing: even if Liz was a believer, there is no reason she, or anyone, should think this POV Shot (that we never see in human form) is an angel at all. Other people on the street and in the newspaper office, see this guy and treat him like any other person, so it’s not like he glows or appears only to specific people or anything like that. (Unlike the angels in the Left Behind series who, credit where it’s due, did do such things and thus made themselves different from ordinary folks.)
Later that day, Liz has lunch (or possibly dinner) with a guy names Steve. I’m unclear whether Steve is her boyfriend or just her friend. Anyway, they repeat the “from the lord,” “Lord Who?” joke, and Steve shows a modicum of concern for Liz’s safety (more than she seems to have herself) and warns her that one of these days, one of the crazies is going to kill her, “thinking they’re doing God’s work.”
Still later that night (Liz is home alone, so maybe she and Steve are Just Good Friends), Liz learns that she and her coworker June have been tapped to go to Hawaii for ten days (damn, what paper do they work for?)…starting September 30th.
The next morning, Liz finds that Angelic POV Shot is waiting for her in her office. Which is deeply creepy, but Liz once again barely bats an eye.
APS: The lord is giving you information that others never get.
Heh, yeah, I guess so. Still, it might be more productive for the lord if he sent it in a way that would make Liz take it seriously.
Liz: Well, until you can prove to me that you’re from the lord, I guess I’ll sit tight.
This is by far the most reasonable point raised so far…and it is completely ignored by our Angelic POV Shot.
And this is really troubling, since if we’re talking about an omniscient and omnipotent god, he knows exactly what it would take to make Liz believe, and he has the power to make it so. So if he’s just sending Some Dude down to Earth to talk to Liz, and she has no objective reason to believe he is anything other than Some Dude…then God’s really just toying with her.
Also, if God is omniscient…doesn’t he already know whether Liz will change her mind?
Angelic POV Shot has pre-placed a Bible on Liz’s desk for her (since we never get to see his body), and Liz has one parting shot for him.
Liz: Oh, by the way, mister, I can’t die on the 19th. My boss is sending me to Hawaii on a business trip on the 30th for ten days, and I’ve never seen Hawaii.
APS: And you never will.
Okay, that has to constitute a threat!
Liz tosses her Bible off her desk after Angelic POV Shot leaves…and fresh-faced Christian Eric sees it!
The mayor drops dead of a heart attack that very day, which makes Liz think about death even more, to the point that she can’t sleep. Also we pan over Liz’s nightstand, which has the most bizarre collection of objects on it…
What is she taking medication for? And what’s with that lady?
(Like so many women in the movies, Liz goes to bed without removing her makeup. Also, I can’t blame her for not being able to sleep, since she has the LOUDEST TICKINGEST ALARM CLOCK IN THE WORLD.)
The next day, Liz takes out her frustration and sleepless night on poor, hapless Eric, telling him of the “Jesus freak” who told her she’s going to die in a few days. Eric, like almost everyone else, is nonplussed that Liz was threatened. He keeps his eyes on the prize, you see:
Eric: Don’t categorize all Christians as freaks. And don’t let this guy affect your view of Jesus.
Thanks, Eric. You’re a true, supportive friend.
It segues into a religious debate:
Liz: What makes you think your way is right? There are so many religions in the world and I know a lot of religious fanatics who don’t live any better than I do.
Too true, but the Christian (as usual) avoids any difficult question.
Eric: I know there are a lot of different religions in the world, but there are only two different ways that people are trying to get to Heaven. They’re either trying to live a good enough life to earn Heaven, or they’re receive [sic] eternal life as a gift by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus as their lord. All religions and people fall into these two categories: you take Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, or most of the people in the church—they’re all trying to earn their way into Heaven.
Or, like Liz, who is standing right in front of you, Eric, they don’t believe in any sort of god or afterlife. Or their afterlife has nothing to do with Heaven.
Films like this do themselves no favor at all by showing how ignorant they are of the world.
This puts me in mind of one of the many problems with Pascal’s Wager (Hi, Brody!): the underlying idea is that there are only two ways to be: Christian and Not-Quite Christian. You can understand Pascal, in the sense that he lived in a world that seems much smaller than ours, with little to no exposure to other peoples and religions. But Eric has no such excuse.
Liz: I thought you weren’t going to preach at me.
Eric: DON’T YOU WANT ETERNAL LIFE???
Damn. Dude, chill.
Eric then goes on to talk about all the “joy” and “peace” he has since he became a Christian. Yeah, you’re really showing it, pal.
He then challenges Liz to take a poll on the street about how to get to Heaven. Liz snarks that she totally would, but for the death threats she might receive from someone like Angelic POV Shot.
There is no possible way Eric could care less:
Eric: But what if he’s right? What if you do die on September 19th—then what, Liz? Where are you going to spend eternity?
Well, me, after I die, I’ll be dead. I wasn’t conscious of not existing before my life on Earth began, so there’s no reason to believe I will be conscious of not existing after I die.
But, of course, Eric is Really Making Liz Think…
For anyone who wants to see the full saga of Caleb and Catherine (and follow along with my critique and Inquisitive Raven’s insights into the realism of the firefighting), TBN will be showing Fireproof twice over the next eight days!
If nothing else, their description shows how different people can interpret a movie oh-so-very differently. It calls both Caleb and Catherine “decent, caring,” and “disrespectful and selfish.”
Now, me, I would have called Catherine, but not Caleb, decent and caring. And I would have called Caleb, but not Catherine, disrespectful and selfish. But that’s just heathen me.
Things have been pretty busy here at Chez Critique, but nothing will stop me from finishing Six.
Also, we’ll have just enough time to hit The Appointment (trust me, there’s not a lot there to hit), before the War on Christmas officially begins on Black Friday. I have the selection for this year all set!
Anyway, it occurs to me that the Mark hasn’t done a lot, now that it is unleashed and all. What’s up with that?
Hang on to your headwear of choice kids, things are about to get weird!
When we last left our “heroes,” they had reached a stop on “the underground railroad to Prodigal City,” hosted by a female character who has lines! That she speaks!
She explains that Elijah Cohen often visits Prodigal City, which is inducement enough for Jerry and Tom (though for very different reasons). Brody, however, is more interested in their hostess, and catches a moment alone with her.
(Brody adorably asks Tom how he looks for this sit-down with the pretty lady. “Very handsome,” Tom assures his seriously, and in all good humor.)
However, just so we know what a horrible sinner atheist Brody is, he implies that he is only interested in a one-night stand with the lady. Which doesn’t necessarily square with the broken-hearted guy with the dead fiancée, but whatever. Sinful, right?
Brody and the lady have a decently-done “meet-cute” conversation, mostly concerning Brody’s confusion over her name. It’s Rahab. And since we have established that Brody “doesn’t know very much at all,” she has to explain to him that she chose the name Rahab…because she also was a prostitute before becoming a Christian.
Brod ythe Sinner assumes this means that she is still in the profession, but she dissuades him of this notion, though comforting him with the plan that if he stuck around, they could get married. This stops Brody dead in his tracks, which is played for laughs (haha, the sinful atheist is scared of marriage!), though it seems to me that her near-immediate proposal to Brody is stranger than his assumptions about her former profession.
God only knows where Jerry is during this little interlude, but we know where Tom is—with Jeseca! Yup, she just saunters up and asks him to take a walk with her. Tom takes this in stride (har), until he realizes that Jeseca brought company: Larry the Torture Guy (why she brought him is anybody’s guess), and a big blonde guy named Foley, who wears his sunglasses at night, so he can, so he can keep track of the visions in his eyes.
Tom: How’d you find me?
Larry: Oh, well let’s just say Foley is part of an army of, shall we say, spiritual bloodhounds.
Tom: Heh. Mutants. Part of The Leader’s genetic modification program. A freak.
Wait, what? MUTANTS??? Where is that in the Book of Revelation?
Foley: No. Your future. If you [unintelligible] superior mankind.
Tom: Well, sieg heil.
Wait, what what? Didn’t we already establish that people don’t even know basic classic movies? But they still know enough history to compare this world to Nazi Germany?
They just did not think this through at all.
(They also did not think through the makeup: Larry the Torture Guy, with his super-duper paleness, looks way more like a mutant than Foley. Which I guess means I look like a mutant, too, so never mind.)
Back at the ranch, the movie is absolutely determined not to tell us the name of Brody’s fiancée…
Rahab: What was her name?
Brody: She’s dead.
Yes, we know this, Brody. So does Rahab.
Brody points out that it’s a tad odd to propose to a guy you’ve know all of ten minutes. Rahab agrees, but continues to plead her case, since she “had a feeling” about Brody. She even tries to convince him not to accompany Jerry to Prodigal City, despite Brody’s sense of responsibility to the younger man.
Out of nowhere, Brody reveals his fiancée’s name.
And he sensibly points out that neither accepting Jesus nor the implant will ever bring back the love of his life.
Brody, you are so the man.
He gives Rahab a friendly little thanks-for-the-memories pat on the knee, and we cut to Jerry, who is reprogramming fake Marks of the Beast so they can travel in safety.
I wonder if this fake identity says anything about how Jerry feels about Tom?
“My name is Laird Pulver.” Try saying that with a straight face.
(Brody, meanwhile, gets the comparative dignity of being Brian Cavin. And Jerry is David Flores.)
The three men hit the road with no more ceremony, and Jeseca, Larry, and Foley take the opportunity to clean house at the Underground Railroad stop.
I really wish I could capture video, but suffice it to say that they really shouldn’t have even tried to film a shooting scene with impact shots. (Now, just fall back on the bed! BANG! You’re dead!)
But you can at least see here the sheer terror that a Christian refugee would feel, confronted with armed agents of the Antichrist.
Meanwhile, some asshole with a boat takes our trio through the swamp (???) and Jerry and Tom discuss The Leader’s global satellite network that controls the implants and the people who have them…lowering their inhibitions, making them pliable, stuff like that. Tom now figures that this time, he for sure has a way to get Jeseca back: by shutting down the system (he seems to have given up on the idea of asking Elijah Cohen to use magic on her). But the asshole shoots down the idea:
Asshole: Even if you got in [to the building housing the computers that control the satellites], it wouldn’t work. Only when Jesus returns will the system be destroyed. All those who’ve taken the Mark will be sent to Hell.
Tom: I don’t believe that.
Asshole: Don’t matter. Yer beliefs are irrelevant to the facts.
Shut up, Asshole.
(And yes, we are aware that Christianity doesn’t tend to concern itself with facts.)
Tom chooses that moment to come completely clean with the boys, and then tells Asshole to turn the boat around. Asshole refuses…and Tom one-punches him right into the water!
Jess, Larry, and Mutant have arrived at the shore of the swamp-whatever, just in time to be ambushed by our trio, who shoot Larry and Mutant and take Jess hostage. The movie tries to shoehorn in some animosity between Tom and Brody, but it really makes no sense, so I’m ignoring it.
They head to the random building that I suppose houses the satellite computers, and using a combination of Jeseca’s mark and Tom’s gun, make it to the computer room, where Jerry just sits down and starts to hack. As you would. (And despite Asshole’s theory, even newly-Christian Jerry seems to think he has a shot at victory here.)
Jerry whines like a little whiny person as he hacks, and Brody hilariously makes it worse by continuously reminding Jerry of the high stakes involved. Meanwhile, Tom and Jeseca have a fraught conversation about whether she left him because of the Mark, or just because she fell out of love with him. It’s actually not horrible stuff here.
But, turns out Asshole was right, and Jerry screws the pooch. Jeseca’s commander and a few guards show up, and Tom matter-of-factly shoots the guards.
Okay, I don’t even get this. (Yeah, yeah, I’m an unrepentant Brody-type. Still, though.)
Elijah Cohen shows up.
In a flash of white light.
Okay, so Elijah Cohen is not Jesus. That’s pretty clear. But he does have quite the array of supernatural abilities:
- Appears out of nowhere
- Makes the remaining two guards just drop in a faint (or possibly he killed them, whatever)
- Makes the commander go blind (“Eli-ZHAH! I’m blind!” the commander snaps, sounding not panicked or even angry, but just a bit impatient with such shenanigans and goings-on)
Elijah gives Tom the mildest of talkings-to regarding the whole you-agreed-to-kill-me thing.
Jerry: You’re the hitchhiker.
OH GEE, JERRY, YOU FRAKKING THINK SO???
Elijah leads the men out, and Jeseca seems kinda on the verge of asking to go with them. But Tom only gives her a soulful stare, knowing now that her soul is damned to Hell for all eternity, the filthy harlot.
Oh, and Elijah can apparently also
- Teleport with friends
Since we immediately cut to Prodigal City, with no explanation as to how they all got there.
Oh, and Elijah? Since you can do all this stuff, I’m sure all the folks at the Underground Railroad stop would like to extend you a hearty thank-you. Except they can’t, because they were all gunned down. You dipshit.
Prodigal City looks like it used to be a summer camp. Camp Smug, if you will.
Speaking of smug, Luke must be decapitated by now. So at least we have that to hold onto.
Jerry has decided to stay in Prodigal City and…do whatever it is they do there. Camp until Jesus comes back, I suppose. Brody wants to “go to Montana, join the Freemen (?), fight the power, kill implant-morons.”
Brody, I love you. You are such a bad-ass.
Tom has decided to go with Brody, even after having an off-screen sit-down with “the old man” (presumably Elijah, though he doesn’t look that old to me), who told Tom that he and Brody were “stupid…for not believing in Jesus.”
So Tom and Brody head to the road, where they say goodbye to each other. (I am so confused by this point—it was implied that they were going in the same direction—what does Tom plan to do with the rest of his life?)
AND LARRY THE TORTURE GUY JUST ROLLS UP IN A TRUCK AND CAPTURES THEM.
Right then, right there. And hey, Larry survived! So, there’s that.
(If Larry and the rest of The Leader’s crew are so good at tracking people down, why haven’t they just annihilated Prodigal City by now? Makes no sense.)
(But we are assured that Camp Smug isn’t found—one of the last shots of the film is stupid Jerry reading the Bible aloud.)
But never mind those losers! Back to the torture chamber with Tom and Brody!
After six days of torture, the boys are given a choice: execution or the Mark.
Tom converts. (And he tells Larry he forgives him. It’s actually kinda cute: Tom’s grin tells us that he remembers how much that kind of thing annoys Larry.)
And then Tom is decapitated out in the yard. With hell-bound Jeseca watching. This time, Tom’s smile tells us that it is no big thing that the love of his life will roast for eternity.
Brody takes the Mark.
Sad face. I wanted him to go kick ass in Montana.
And, in a bit of a clever touch, we see that Brody’s opening monologue, in which he remembers life before The Leader, is actually Marked Brody, remembering his life before the Mark.
Brody: I still remember the last free choice I ever made. *stares into the camera* It was the wrong one. *shot of Brody’s Marked hand*
Call me crazy, but I don’t consider it a “free choice” when you are tortured for six days, then given the option of execution or the implant. That choice ain’t free.
But freedom isn’t free; it costs $1.05.
So we’ve seen Luke have his small group in his cell, but now we find that the most lax prison in the world allows Luke to run large group sessions…right there in the middle of the prison. As an attractive female guard* keeps watch, Luke leads a session of no fewer than fifteen prisoners, who are casually congregated in the dining area, happily applauding each other as they tell their conversion stories. (Jerry is sitting there, clapping along with everyone else, Tom is standing apart but looking on, and Brody is nowhere to be seen.)
*By the way movie, don’t think it’s escaped my notice that we’re almost halfway through this movie, and the only named female character we have so far is Jeseca, the Psycho Ex-Wife. And in this prison with female guards, we still have not seen a female prisoner. Who says Christian movies can’t write strong, identifiable women?
Eh, who needs women when there are men who can tell their stories, amirite? Luke stems the applause and introduces our next guest, Louis!
“Hi, I’m Louis and I’m a new Christian.”
So, in yet another instance of thinking way more about this movie than the writers did, I’d like to point out something that could have been intriguing, but instead is overlooked entirely:
Luke is pretty clearly the prisoner-leader—the most respected man around. This is interesting because of the nature of this prison—nobody is here for more than 21 days. Luke has been there for 17 days (perhaps 18 now). So I wonder how Luke claimed this authority so quickly. (He hasn’t been there the longest, by the way—Louis is on Day 20!) What does Luke expect will happen when he’s executed? Who will rise to take his place?
Eh, who cares? Not the movie, that’s for sure!
Back to Louis, who tells his boring story through flashback: once upon a time, he was a guy driving his nice car slowly through a group of people ambling through a field, making fun of them. Why they’re there, and why Louis is there, are left to our imagination. Are they refugees? Why does Louis have a car? Why do the big grins of some of these supposedly miserable folks not necessitate a re-shoot?
(Oh, and this is definitely not a LaJenkins’ dispensational premillennialism—there are kids in this group of people aged about 8-10 years.)
“Woo, this is fun!” Louis calls out, just so we know that driving through empty fields, laughing at people, is what filthy nonbelievers like to do with their time.
Said fun is short-lived, however—a couple of guys get pissed, yank Louis from his car, and proceed to beat him up. (Though not really very hard—my favorite is the fellow who wanders over to the scuffle, gives Louis one light little kick on the ass, then backs away, apparently satisfied that he has done his part.)
After it’s all over, a now carless Louis is sitting in the field, licking his wounds, when Elijah Cohen appears! Just, yanno, out of nowhere. As happens. He tells Louis that it’ll be okay and ineffectively dabs at his cuts with a (no doubt filthy) washcloth.
Louis: All of a sudden, when Cohen was taking care of me, I felt like it was Jesus himself. He led me to the Lord right there.
This…is more true than Louis might think. In fact, during this whole sequence, Louis seems to have some difficulty keeping Jesus and Elijah Cohen separate. He says he knows that Jesus died for his sins…then he grabs Elijah’s shirt and makes eye contact with Elijah while begging, “…wash me clean, please. Let me live for the first time and I’ll follow you from now on,” and buries his face in Elijah’s chest. So it’s hard not to see this as Louis pledging fealty to Elijah Cohen, not Jesus.
Louis has a tear-streaked, closed-eyes prayer to Heaven, in which his magically quotes Psalm 81.
Back in prison…
Louis: But you know what the strangest thing is? When I looked up, Elijah Cohen was gone. Just vanished.
Luke: Like Philip, in the Book of Acts.
Um, excuse me, Luke, but LOUIS IS TELLING THE STORY!
Tom chimes in from the doorway of his cell:
Tom: Whaddaya mean, he vanished? You mean he ran away?
Louis: No, man. I mean he vanished. Poof.
Ah, yes. Clear as mud.
Later, in their cell, Tom gets back to his mission:
Tom: Did you know [Elijah Cohen]?
Luke: Yes. Do you really think you’re gonna kill him?
Yeah, remember, God told Luke every detail.
Just as he did with Brody, Tom reveals a bit of his true motivation, including a new twist he’s just come up with:
Tom: If this Cohen is who everybody says he is, then maybe he can help me.
Luke: Help you get your wife back, Tom? She’s not coming back. Ever.
Hey, don’t get me wrong, Tom. We are all about magical thinking here. But getting an evil woman to change her ways? Well, magic only goes so far…
Tom: What do you know about my wife?
Luke: I know that she’s somewhere close to here, being intimate with another man. Right now.
Damn. God really does tell Luke every single detail!
“God told me all about the rose petals littering the bed, and about Sven’s ripped biceps and six-pack abs. He told me about the flowing champagne, and the reverse cowgirl…”
Unsurprisingly, Tome has now officially Had Enough…and proceeds to kick the ever-loving crap out of Luke.
I mean, seriously. Louis thought he had it bad, with that tiny little ass-kick? Tom frickin’ goes to town on Luke’s pretty face.
And I am not a violent person, not even a little bit, but I cannot tell you how richly satisfying it is to watch this. Sad, dramatic music plays, so I know I’m supposed to feel bad, but I am cheering Tom on. Smack that smug, self-righteous face, Tommy! GET YOU SOME!
The next day, Louis is executed, and we see what a spirit of love and forgiveness God has instilled in his new follower:
Louis: Be good, o Lord, to those who follow you. But to those who reject your ways, bring judgment.
What a nice fellow.
Tom, fresh from dispensing his own brand of judgment, tells Brody that they’re leaving tonight.
Then he has a last-minute meeting with Jeseca. He’s up-front about the fact that he’s taking Brody and Jerry, even though they’re not believers, and explains that none of the Christians want to leave prison anyway:
Tom: You think you’re punishing them by putting them in here and chopping their heads off? You’re a bunch of fools. You’ve given them the greatest privilege of their lives.
Jeseca: Then it is a weak religion following a weak god.
You tell ‘em, girlfriend!
Jeseca also doesn’t take any shit, and tells Tom that if he doesn’t take a Christian, they’ll just not allow them to escape…and also that Larry is always available for some extra torture. Bet Larry can’t wait.
Ah, but perhaps Tom can take a Christian after all! See, Luke and three of his buddies drop in on Jerry, who is having a bit of a cry, all alone in his cell. (And since this prison never cares where the prisoners go, the foursome can just drop in.) Much as Elijah Cohen came upon Louis when he was at his lowest, Luke and Co. catch Jerry at just the right moment, when he is having a little existential breakdown, and play on his fears.
Random Christian Prisoner: No matter what happens, you can be fearless.
Luke: It’s true, Jerry. You can be fearless. You see, all of us in this room, we learned something that changed everything. It’s kinda like when you’re a kid and you got a secret.
Jerry: What’s the secret?
Luke: Surrender to Jesus Christ.
This is when Jerry makes his one, feeble argument—the one from the trailer about the “poor carpenter.” Now, very clearly, Jerry is already most of the way there, what with his participation in small group and applauding Louis, but Luke goes for the hard sell nonetheless:
Luke: You have the opportunity of a lifetime right now. Accept Jesus. Ask him to forgive you. Become fearless. Now. You can do it. You know you want to.
I just really hate when evangelicals hit people up at their weakest moments like this. Reminds me of the lady who patrolled (there’s really no other word for it) the hospital where my grandfather was sick, “sharing” the Bible.
But hey, grabbing people when they’re feeling tired or scared is such an easier way to get another notch on your Bible!
Of course, Jerry does it. He knows he wants to. And, just like Louis, he falls into the arms of his human savior. Y’know, for a movie that hasn’t even featured a man and woman touching each other yet, there sure are a lot of scenes of men hugging and crying.
Jerry wanders out into the common area (really, this place is more like a college dorm than a prison), and runs smack into his
roomie cellmate Brody, who, natch, is shocked and horrified to hear that Jerry has become a Jesus freak, and hilariously admonishes him to “take it back.”
Luke sidles up to Tom…
Luke: One Christian who wants to escape. Funny how the Lord provides us with what we need, hmm, Tom?
Look, Luke, do you want another ass-kicking?
Hate that guy.
Nighttime, and Luke decides that he still has a bit of smugness to get out of his system before Tome leaves.
Luke: What you need, Tom, is to look inside yourself. Realize the truth. ‘Cause pretty soon you’re gonna have to make a choice. And you’re gonna make the wrong one. Doesn’t have to be that way.
Tom, because he rocks, does not even give Luke a “goodbye,” but stalks out of the cell to get Brody and Jerry. Luke tags along, only to grab Jerry at the last second and give him an urgent instruction: “pick up the hitchhiker.”
Oh, and a question: why is Jeseca now okay with this plan? I mean, they’ve been watching Tom this whole time, so don’t they know that Jerry has been a Christian for, oh, about three hours now, and has no more tie to Elijah Cohen than he did yesterday? Weird.
Speaking of goodbyes, Jerry has none for the man who led him to Christ. No “thanks,” either.
The escape doesn’t seem all that difficult at first—they just jog out, with Tom incapacitating a mere one guard. Brody breaks into a car and hotwires it instantly, and they speed off.
They are pursued, and Tom explains that Jeseca gave him a “device” to get past the gates, but “beyond that…“
So, not the best escape plan in the world. But then, what can you expect from a girl, right?
Suddenly, Jerry spots the hitchhiker! I’m sure we all have a good guess as to who it is, but he’s dressed as nothing so much as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Jerry demands they pull over, and when the Ghost touches the car…the pursuing cars zip past them! The hitchhiker has magically made the car invisible!
Jerry sits there grinning, like he knew it all along.
Okay, so I presume this is Cohen, but I guess it’s not a big deal, because we immediately cut to our three renegades sitting around a table, sipping tea with a pretty young woman who explains that they are on “the underground railroad to Prodigal City.”
Um…OKAY. So I guess there is no curiosity at all about this whole turn-the-car-invisible thing, eh?
These people are so weird. I mean, Tom is a cop, and he’s not even mildly interested in what just happened?
Still, I suppose the thing that most blows my mind about this part of the movie is the revelation that there are other women who can talk in this world! Who knew?
More on our newest character…next time.
Jeseca takes Tom to some guy in charge. I’m not sure precisely what he is in charge of, but at the very least, he’s in charge of Jeseca and this mission.
(Yeah, I guess because it’s The Future, she’s Jeseca, not Jessica. My bad.)
They show Tom some footage of Elijah Cohen (proponent of the “dangerous” “Christian heresy,” explaining that The Leader is the Antichrist and the implant is the Mark of the Beast, and that anyone who takes it is going to hell.
Tom sensibly asks why they haven’t just killed him themselves already, and they say it’s because “it’s difficult for anyone bearing the implant to get close to him,” but somebody took that very up-close footage of Cohen preaching. So why did they film him, and how did Jeseca get her hands on the footage?
So the solution is for Tom, who has “no religious inclination whatsoever” to go into “deep cover” in the prison and get close to the Christians, who will in turn lead him to Cohen.
My question is: why don’t they just torture the Christians? They may constantly forgive the torturers, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t eventually break.
So Tom enters the prison. For reasons that are never made clear, this “deep cover” assignment for a nonbeliever involved little to no religious training: Tom wanders past Jerry and addresses him as “brother” (which makes no sense, as Jerry is not a Christian). This prompts another piece of sense from Brody:
Brody: I don’t know who’s weirder: the implant morons, or these Jesus freaks.
Jerry: I guess you don’t believe in heaven, then.
Brody: Yanno what’s good about that? I don’t believe in hell, either.
Amen, brother. Also, gorrammit but Jerry is dumb.
Tom’s cell, too, is plastered with Bible verses on every available surface, and Tom’s eyes are drawn to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, which he can’t get more than halfway through before declaring it “boring.”
I think Tom would fit in around here just fine. :)
This critique catches the attention of his cellmate, Luke, who has been lying on his (lower) bunk and reading his Bible in complete darkness.
Luke reads the second half of the parable (closing his eyes for part of it, so we get that he knows it by heart). Then he asks Tom for an interpretation. As you would. Tom correctly guesses that the bridegroom is Jesus, but then goes right off the deep end into the most awesome interpretation in history:
Tom: Christ only wants to deflower five virgins because the others forgot the oil. Yanno, seems to me there’s some kind of message about sharing in there. I mean, aren’t we supposed to share? Maybe it should be called “The Five Selfish Virgins.”
Tom, I think I love you and I want to have your babies.
Luke chuckles at Tom’s amazing interpretation, and then we get some wild Christian magic: Luke knows Tom’s name without being told!
Luke: I know things. Like why you’re really here, and why you think you’re here. God told me you were coming, Tom.
Heh, really? That’s how God talks to people?
“Yo, Luke. Some guy names Tom Newman is gonna be your cellmate soon. Keep an eye out, ‘kay?”
At least now I can be sure that I’ve never heard from God, if this is how he makes his presence known.
Tom: So, did God also tell you what the stupid story means?
Okay, now I know I love you, Tom.
Luke gives him the very distilled version (Jesus is coming back), and then he gets to explaining the difference between the implant and having Jesus on your heart. Except he does it…very badly.
Luke: When you’re talking about [getting] the Holy Spirit, you become more like the way Jesus wanted you to become. More like him. More unique. More individual. Opposite of the implant.
Tom: That doesn’t make any sense. I mean, everyone becoming more like Jesus? I mean, c’mon—he’s just one person.
Luke: He’s also God. The god who made each one of us as a unique creation. Sin destroys that, creates conformity. Redemption in Christ restores that. Brings us back to what God truly wanted us to be.
Tom: Still, I gotta tell ya: sounds awfully close to The Leader.
Luke: You’re just gonna have to figure that out for yourself, Tom. ‘Cause if you don’t, you’re gonna burn in hell forever.
Tom: Ooo, hell. Frightened now.
I LOVE YOU
And Luke, there’s no need to lash out at Tom with your little hell-threats. It’s not Tom’s fault that you suck at explaining how your religion is different from the totalitarian leader running your world: the one who demands complete obedience lest he destroy you.
I surprised that Tom and Larry didn’t get along better. Larry ain’t scared of hell, either.
Yanno, this whole thing is terribly confused, but I do like how Tom and Brody are have similar thoughts and motivations about the two primary belief systems of the world. Jeseca aside, both characters value their individuality and worry about losing it under either system.
The next day, our four main characters have lunch together, and Luke reveals that God also told him that Tom is going to bust Brody and Jerry out of prison. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense right now, since Brody and Jerry have exactly zero connection to Elijah Cohen. Still, for lack of a better option, Brody’s ears prick up.
Later that day, Luke has a small-group session in his cell. (This is seriously the most lax prison ever. Sure, everyone! Let’s just all go and hang out in my cell!)
As if it wasn’t evident enough from the previous scene with Tom, Luke turns out to be yet another smug, smirking dickweed for Christ. He plays teacher to the students, including Jerry, who is kinda getting into it, and Brody, who seems to mostly because he has nowhere else to go. Brody gets annoyed when Luke and Jerry start talking about nature and the stars and trees and shit being proof of God:
Brody: You can’t prove God from nature. It’s been shown to be impossible. It’s the cosmological or the teleological argument and it was destroyed by Hume and Pascal—
Luke: Pascal? Oh, he was a Christian. You didn’t know that. Oh, I guess you don’t know very much at all.
Pascal was a Catholic, Luke. And I know how you RTCs feel about Catholics.
Brody: Why don’t you tell them the other side of the argument? ‘Cause you’re just like The Leader: it’s all propaganda.
Luke: You’re right, Brody. God’s existence cannot be proven logically or in nature. It’s really just a subjective experience unique to each and every one of us.
THEN WHY DID YOU BRING UP THE ARGUMENT IN THE FIRST PLACE???
Two possibilities: Luke is embarrassed that Brody had a counter-argument, and is trying to save face…or, once again, this movie has completely confused itself.
Brody is right, of course, so Luke moves on to his next “argument”: the god-shaped hole argument or, in other words, the idea that Christians know the thoughts and feelings of nonbelievers far better than we do.
Man, who says Christians are arrogant, amirite?
Luke brings up hell, and Brody chuckles.
Luke: You know why you’re laughing? It’s ’cause you’re scared. You’re scared. You know that hell exists and that, sadly, that’s probably where you’ll end up.
Christians are soooo not arrogant! And they know this nonbeliever’s thoughts so well, too!
Fear of hell: Pascal would be so proud.
Brody, pissed off, storms out of small group, but later confronts Tom. Tom, none too happy with the way things have been going (especially the fact that he has no way of contacting his handlers, especially Jeseca), spills almost the whole story, leaving out only the part about a manufactured escape in order to find Elijah Cohen. Brody is wise to the fact that this can’t be all there is to it, but simply offers himself and Jerry up as accomplices in the great escape. Tom drily observes that Jerry seems well on his way to a conversion, which might make him unwilling to leave prison.
It’s always sad to see wasted potential. Decent acting, a suitably spooky premise, a moody score, and the ever-popular addition of a Baldwin Brother. And it’s all ruined by a world so poorly built (or should I say unbuilt) and a plot so damned draggy, that the movie is all but impossible to watch in a single sitting. This movie is so confused that it appears to have confused itself.
Well, that’s it, folks—my critique of Six: The Mark Unleashed!
You know me—why would I say in four sentences what I can say in four parts?
And, shocking though it may be, there actually is some interesting stuff here. Not very much of it, mind, and all buried under layers of boringness, but there all the same.
Six: The Mark Unleashed does itself no favors whatsoever by opening with a shot of Hitler. No, really: after the credits, Hitler is the first person we see.
Yeah, we get it. Hitler, the Antichrist.
And, and hey! There’s Lenin. Boy, they’re not into subtlety, are they?
Okay, that is unspeakably goofy—stock footage of Hitler, stock footage of Lenin, cheap old movie of Jesus. Boy, Jesus sure was a white guy, wasn’t he?
But hey, on with the show!
We keep seeing the same faces crop up again and again here at Heathen Critique, and the first person we hear is one David White, who you may remember from when he was a pimply young teen, saving his parents from the horror of divorce by keeping their unhappy marriage together through the power of his prayers.
Presumably, this is in the not-too-distant-future (next Sunday, A.D.):
Brody: I still remember…Saturday morning cartoons, must-see TV, news—fair and balanced. I also remember the first and second Gulf Wars, the second Great Depression, school shootings. And the music. It’s the music I miss the most. There was freedom then. Freedom to do terrible things, but freedom all the same.
A refreshiongly multi-ethnic, wide-age-ranged group of people is watching a totally futuristic recording of a young woman, introducing them to the greatness of “The Community“: a system of living in which monogamy is obsolete, and everyone can “move among partners, male or female” (gasp!). All because of the “implant” they now have. (The Mark of the Beast, natch.)
Brody’s voiceover continues, and he tells us of his (as yet nameless) fiancée, who was “killed in the first Purge of the Leader,” in which 80 million people were killed in just one day in the United States. (About one quarter of our current population. Pretty impressive, though not one word is said about how they were killed, or why the Leader ordered this Purge, or why people are now so happy to join the Community (and, indeed, we will learn that many join willingly.))
Oh well, I’m sure such details aren’t important.
Oh oh: in case we aren’t freaked out enough by the spectre of homosexuality, we are now informed that the implant also functions as birth control (gasp! choke!) and that you need permission from The Leader to spawn.
Seems like micromanaging on his part.
Still, with both teh gays and teh pill, we now know it’s serious.
More backstory on Brody: prior to the Purge and the Community, he was a “designer, engineer, and test-driver for Chevrolet.” Really, one guy does all three of those things? Because they’re…kinda different.
But, now that the Tribulation is upon us (though I don’t think the word is ever used in the whole course of the movie) Brody has turned that skill set to different use, by pairing up with a young hacker named Jerry. Together, they steal high-end cars and sell them on the black market: Jerry hacks the garage’s security system, Brody does the actual sneaking in and taking of the car.
(White and Downes have co-starred before: in The Moment After and the The Moment After 2 (“The Moment After That?) More post-Rapture fare—let me know if you’re interested in seeing me critique those!)
(Speaking of the Rapture…this movie doesn’t speak of it. So it seems that Six: The Mark Unleashed is taking a mid-tribulation position, as opposed to our old friends LaHaye and Jenkins, who are pre-tribulationists.)
We find that The Leader is on the radio pretty much all the time (which explains Brody’s complaint about music). This reminds me of nothing so much as the MST3k episode Stranded in Space, which also featured a totalitarian government with a totalitarian radio show.
The Leader (on the radio): Only by seizing what we want, taking what is rightfully ours and destroying those who get in our way, can mankind truly be fulfilled.
Brody (to the radio): Well, I’m with you there.
The Leader: What is that fulfillment? The deification of mankind itself. Each one of you can become God, as I am God. Each one of you has my spirit in you, through the holy implant.
Brody: But you always lose me.
Damn. Okay, I…kinda like Brody. He makes sense. Most of all, Brody doesn’t align himself with the implant-havers or the Christians. He’s staked out his own damn side.
Sadly, we all know what happens when a nonbelieving character in a Christian film is sensible and sympathetic.
Brody and Jerry take the car to their fence and, in what I can only hope is a moment of wit, drive past “Locust Street.”
Eric Roberts may get high billing in this movie, but don’t get attached to Dallas. Is all I’m saying.
As Tom showcases his wares, we learn more about The Leader: that he “nuked the South all the way down to Cuba,” thus making the cigars Tom supplies that much more precious.
Tom: I got more: five cases of banned DVDs. You ever see Schindler’s List?
Dallas: I never even heard of it.
Tom: Well, it’ll make you feel like a hero. There’s some real classics: Papillon, Braveheart, Lawrence of Arabia.
Dallas: They any good?
Tom: What do I look like, man, a film critic?
WAIT A SECOND
Do you see what I mean about this movie being confused? Not ten minutes ago, Brody said he remembered both Gulf Wars, but Dallas, who has a good fifteen years on Brody, doesn’t know Schindler’s List? Remember, none of these characters have the implant, and the implant doesn’t even have a basic memory-wiping capacity (at least, not for everyone). So why doesn’t American Dallas know these movies?
(Another note on timelines: it can’t be that far into the future: Six came out in 2004, and Brody would have to have been born in the early 1980s, at the very latest, in order to have an independent memory of the first Gulf War. So, again, what gives with Dallas not knowing famous movies?)
Tom’s little party is broken up by three agents of The Leader: two nameless dudes and Jessica, Tom’s ex-wife. You see, Jessica opted for the implant and Tom did not. Despite this (and despite referring to her as “Gestapo*”, and despite declaring that he would rather be shot than take the implant), Tom is clearly still carrying a torch for Jessica.
*See what I mean??? Tom knows what “Gestapo” means, but Dallas doesn’t know Lawrence of Arabia!
It is Dallas who is taken outside and shot—Jessica determines in approximately one second that he has been using a fake implant and only pretending to be part of The Community. (Of course we don’t see this death—not only is this a Christian film, but it would necessitate an effects budget.)
Jessica also knows that Tom still cares for her, and is quite ready to play on this: She has an “assignment” for him…one that would allow him to see Jessica and avoid the implant and avoid death…
Cut back to Brody and Jerry, delivering the car to their fence, Tiny (the second huge-man-named-”Tiny” featured on this site!). Like Dallas, Tiny had a fake implant, but Brody quickly sees that it has been replaced with a real one.
In another instance that I hope was wit, but was probably about padding out the running time, an “exciting” car chase ensues. But it ends less excitingly than might be hoped…as the stolen car has almost no gas in it. And so, Brody and Jerry end up in prison.
And I mean that very literally. They’re pulled over—BOOM—they’re in prison. So, no trials in Leaderville? I assume not, but it wouldn’t hurt to say so. Also, everyone in the prison is subject to the following bizarre time limit: choose to take the implant within three weeks of arrival, or be killed. This is true of car thieves, like Jerry and Brody, and Christians (we’ll meet them soon). Also, is it a crime to be a Christian, all by itself, or have the Christians all been arrested on other charges? Also also, why is bearing a false implant subject to immediate execution, but being a Christian allows you three weeks to change your mind?
Again, I’m sure I’m thinking about this way too much. And way more than the writers did.
But I am now distracted, because THERE’S BRAD HELLER!!!
Like so many movie torturers, this guy loves his work. He really, really loves it. And in case that wasn’t just enough to convince Christian viewers that he is a Bad Guy, our torturer likes to get up close and personal with his victims.
Very up close and personal
Also, the torturer’s name is Preston, but I am amusing myself by pretending that it actually IS Larry, and he never did convert after being accosted by Jesus late that one night. And got that high-paying job he always wanted. ;)
And Larry, you know I love you, man, but that’s John Winchester you’re screwing with. Best be careful.
Torture has apparently advanced in Leaderville: instead of actual physical tortures, you get wires attached to you and they send pain sensations to your brain—the feeling of being burned, of having skin peeled off (eww…), etc. Tom is enough of a Manly Hero to insult his torturer, but he also cries, and I kinda like that balance. (This is where the “Christians always forgive me when I torture them” line happens—Larry appreciates that Tom is honest about his anger.)
Out in the prison yard, Brody and Jerry and some other prisoners watch as six guys are beheaded. Two interesting things of note here:
1. This prison has both male and female guards, but only male prisoners
2. They use the flimsiest plastic sheets in the world to hold the guys’ necks down before they are decapitated.
See? (Also, there’s the mark, in red, on the plastic-holder-thingie.)
Back in Larry’s Torture Emporium, Tom is totally broken. That is the cue for Larry to exit and Jessica to enter as the balm. Now that Tom is in the proper frame of mind, he immediately agrees to the assignment.
Jessica: They want you to find a man named Elijah Cohen and kill him.
Tom (sobbing): He’s dead. He’s a dead man.
We end the day with Brody and Jerry in their cell. Hilariously, the totalitarian regime sees absolutely nothing wrong with their capital prisoners decorating their cells (and I do mean every single inch of the cells) with Bible verses in many bright colors of marker.
Yeah, the guards are real hard-asses here, aren’t they?
Time for Brody to make sense again!
Jerry: You sound depressed.
Brody: I’m a little depressed. Something about watching people get their heads chopped off brings me down.
Jerry’s…not too swift, is he?
But hey, at least he can read the writing on the wall! (Har.)
Jerry: Y’know, it says over here, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son, but delivered him up for us all, shall not freely give us all things.” What do you think that means?
Brody: I’ll tell you what it means: it means if God even exists, he murdered his own kid. They seem to think that was good. So he’ll let all of us be burned, too. I didn’t see him coming to help those losers, did you? They got their heads chopped off, and God was nowhere in sight.
Brody kicks ass.
He is so doomed.
Next time: introduction of a Baldwin Brother!
So, my initial plan was to do a few movies, then jump back into a longer book, then do my usual War-on-Christmas holiday book (and possibly, this year, another movie, as Saving Christmas is coming out on November 14th!).
But now that Pamela’s Freaking Prayer has gotten us into October, I’m thinking that a better plan would be to do another couple of movies, then my War on Christmas stuff, then start a new novel after the holidays. (I’ll poll you guys to see what you want!)
And I’m pretty excited, because I have a comparatively-new, Baldwin-brothered film! With an actual budget!