Late One Night, Part 1
Time for another Christiano film! But oh, this one is just a bit different. No hearty “Jesus, man!” or solemn promise to come to Jesus “all the way.” Nope, this is a quiet, moody piece. I’m serious. And enough things work that I am almost inclined to…like the movie.
I know, right? But don’t worry—the movie’s shabby treatment of its main character, Larry, and the usual nasty message of Christian films prevent me from giving this a Ruby Star (which I just made up anyway).
Said Larry has already made a brief appearance on this site—he was the “of this world” sales clerk in Time Changer.
Oh, and one more thing before we start: see how the trailer keeps the plot focused on the “quiet, humble man“? The redhead? Yeah, this movie seems to be under the impression that he is our hero, when, by any rational estimation, the role of hero (or anti-hero, if you must) belongs to Larry. And this strange idea about who this movie is about is not limited to the trailer—every piece of writing I’ve seen on this movie, including the DVD back cover matter, calls Larry the “antagonist.” But read on, and let me know who you think are our heroes and villains and anybody in between.
The film opens with a black-and-white montage showing us just how frakked up our atheist “antagonist’s” life is. It all starts when Larry’s dad walks out on him and his mother when he is seven. Just to make sure we Get It, Dad leaves with these resounding words to Mom:
“Look, I hate you. And I hate that kid. And you’re never gonna see me again. EVER.”
Ah, just another day in a non-Christian “home.” And just to be sure we really, really Get It, Dad’s words echo: And I hate that kid…and I hate that kid…and I hate that KID… as Larry cries out for his father.
(In a decision that is both sensible and cost-effective, Larry and his dad are played by the same actor, Brad Heller. The man single-handedly makes this movie watchable.)
As morose music plays, we see that the next twenty-five years of Larry’s life are not much of an improvement: his mother gets a job cleaning (not that this is a horrible thing, but the morose music keeps playing anyway).
Then adult Larry is thrown in jail (wearing a black-and-white-striped prison jumpsuit that makes it look like he’ll be working on the chain gang).
Then, after getting out of jail, he strikes out with a woman at a bar.
Well, jail is hardly a surprise for our erstwhile “antagonist.” After all, coming from a “broken home” with no Christian values, Larry doesn’t know right from wrong.
As for the unsuccessful pick-up: Larry is presented here as more clueless schmuck than amoral predator. He strikes up a conversation with the woman, drops a few compliments, and asks her out. He’s pretty obviously trying too hard, but the woman’s reaction (“Drop dead.”) still seems cruel. What, a “No, thanks” wouldn’t have sufficed?
Larry works at a factory (kinda looks like they bottle orange juice, but between my color blindness and the bad lighting in the factory, it’s difficult to tell), apparently second shift. After work, he and his two friends head to a local diner to grab a late bite, and this is where the bulk of the film takes place.
On a couple of occasions, however, we switch outside to a guy handing out tracts. He seems genuinely surprised that his evangelism technique of accosting people at eleven o’clock at night in the middle of the light industrial district isn’t working.
“God loves you, man. Don’t you know that God loves you?”
In the diner (in which they are currently the only customers) Larry’s two buddies, Mike and Vince, give him some good-natured grief about an episode earlier in the day. We’ll call it Larry Strikes Out, Part Deux. Larry has a crush on a woman who works in the office of their factory. He says “hi” to her every day as he comes in. Let me be clear about something, in light of events to come: this is as far as it has ever gone. A casual greeting. Hi.
Later in the workday, on their break, Christian co-worker Riley attempts to school Larry on the situation:
“She just isn’t seeing it your way.”
Wise words, though I can hardly blame Larry for not taking them to heart, given the massive, self-satisfied smirk on Riley’s face as he delivers the message.
From left, Larry (ticked off at Riley), Vince (trying to stay out of it),
and Riley (smugly smirking as he shoots down Larry’s hopes).
“Ah, I know what it is. It’s because she’s religious and I’m a heathen.”
Gorram straight, he’s a heathen! Join us, Larry. JOIN US.
“I’m surprised you know what that word means.” [smugs Riley]
Screw you, Riley.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, you fake.” [responds Larry, awesomely]
“Look, man, she’s not interested in dating someone who’s not a Christian.”
“Well, then I guess it’s her that’s acting like a heathen.”
How can you tell when a Christian is writing lines for an atheist? When the atheist character thinks that “being a jerk” is synonymous with not believing.
Anyway, Riley starts to quote 2 Corinthians at Larry, and I can only assume he’s going for this verse, but Larry cuts him off, utterly annoyed.
Turns out that Riley’s advice was prescient: the boss calls Larry to his office even later that same day, and tells Larry to stop “harassing” (that word again!) the woman. Because “lawyers take these things very seriously.” Strangely, Larry does not respond with a simple “You’ll be hearing from my union,” but he does defend himself, pointing out that he’s only ever said “hi” to her.
In this little game of “she said, he said,” however, the boss immediately and unquestionably believes “the girl” (who never is granted the dignity of a name). Why? Because “she’s a nice Christian girl.”
Well, I guess I’m up a creek if I’m ever “harassed” (or said “hi” to) under this guy’s watch.
Larry finishes his story to his friends by concluding that Riley, the boss, and the woman are “a bunch of fakes” (a theme he will expound upon further in a little while).
Weird moment: Larry’s burger is ready, and he teases the diner owner/cook, Jackson, about the doneness of the meat.
“Okay, Jackson, your life is on the line tonight. This better be cooked exactly the way I like it.”
“Hey, it’s your life that’s one the line tonight. You just don’t know it yet.”
Um, what? How does Jackson know what’s about to transpire? IS HE THE FOURTH IN OUR CHRISTIAN MOVIE LINEUP OF ANGELS???
Second Glance Angel
Escape from Hell Angel One and Angel Two
And now Jackson from Late One Night.
I’m still unimpressed by angels, but that dinner special is quite reasonable.
Time to get rid of the woman so the men can talk religion! Oh yeah, there’s another whole woman in this movie: Patty, the waitress. She knows the factory guys, and has a friendly, teasing relationship with them, especially Larry. Unfortunately, she heads off for a party, leaving Larry, his two buddies, and Jackson the possible angel, in the diner alone.
Meanwhile, Tract Guy actually has a bite! You can tell Tract Guy is just STOKED that he has a chance at a conversion…so much so that he fails to realize that the guy he is trying to convert IS ALREADY A CHRISTIAN. This is our introduction to the guy that RTCs think is the real hero of this movie. We never learn his real name, but Larry mockingly calls him Jesus, so I will do the same:
Tract Guy: “Hey. Hey, man. God loves you, man. Do you know God loves you, man?
Jesus: “Why, yes. Yes, I do.”
TG: “Do you know that God gave his only son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins?”
TG: “Do you know that Jesus died and was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures? Do you know this, man?”
“Now, I have to warn you: there are a lot of people out there who know facts about Jesus but they ain’t going to Heaven when they die. The question is, have you done anything about what you know?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Have you realized you are a sinner, and Jesus is the one who can forgive you of your sins? Have you repented towards God and put your faith in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins, and received him in your life as your Lord and Savior? Have you done that, man?”
“Yeah, I have.”
“Oh, that’s good to hear, that’s good to hear.”
*Jesus starts to walk away, but Tract Guy just will not leave him alone*
“You know, life is like being on a boat: When you have Jesus in your life, you’re on Noah’s ark. But when you don’t have Jesus in your life, you’re on the Titanic.” *TG chuckles at his own joke* “Do you hear me, man?”
Um, Tract Guy, not everyone on the Titanic died. Just so you know.
“Yeah, I hear ya.”
“Jesus is the only way to the Father in Heaven…the only way!”
*Jesus keeps walking away*
“I hear ya.” [Jesus responds, over his shoulder, but still trying to get away]
“You have to live for eternity, not the weekend! Deny thyself, follow Jesus.”
“I hear ya.”
“God loves you, man. God loves you.”
*Jesus turns all the way around*
“God loves you.”
“I hear ya, man, I hear ya. God loves you.”
I think we have a strong candidate for World’s Most Pointless Conversation: this Jesus guy is already RTC! But you just know that Tract Guy will go home and mark this interaction in his diary as “Successful Conversion of Heathen.”
Does the movie even realize how this guy comes off—as a blowhard in love with the sound of his own voice who will not just STFU or let anyone get a word in edgewise?
And RTCs like this wonder why people walk past street evangelists as quickly as possible.
Jesus, of course, as our model of a Good Christian, puts up with the blowhard with a smile, and actually takes the tract, even though he presumably knows all the boilerplate arguments in the stupid little thing. Oh well, it will become important in a minute.
Jesus wanders into the diner, and Larry teases him in a pretty obnoxious and juvenile manner about what to order. Jesus ignores him and places his order, and Jackson reacts to the whole situation in a terribly Christian manner, telling Jesus that “I have to put up with that idiot [Larry] every night.” Well, fine, jerk, I guess Larry doesn’t have to patronize your establishment EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
Jesus heads to the bathroom, leaving his coat behind. This is Larry’s cue—he sneaks over and starts rummaging through Jesus’s pockets.
DUDE, NOT COOL.
Man, atheists, amirite? Leave them alone for thirty seconds, and they’ll rob you blind.
Or at least, they’ll take your worthless tract.
Yep, Larry doesn’t take a wallet or a phone or anything else—just the tract.
When Jesus comes back, Larry tries to strike up a conversation again, and Jackson tells him to knock it off. So Larry mutters to Jesus that “I have to put up with that idiot [Jackson] every night.“
Okay, I’ll admit it—that’s pretty funny.
Things start to get interesting here, and again, it’s due almost entirely to Brad Heller’s acting. Gotta remember that Larry has had a really shitty day, what with people giving him grief about his lack of religion left and right, and now he just seems anxious for a little verbal sparring to make himself feel better.
SO HE STARTS TO CRITIQUE THE TRACT OUT LOUD!
See why I like this guy? 😀
Larry, a born (again?) critiquer. JOIN US.
Larry tells Jesus that the tract fell out of his pocket, and tries to give it back. Jesus, speaking to Larry for the first time, tells him to keep it.
“Gee, thanks, but I’m not religious.” [says Larry]
“Neither am I.”
“Well, what are you then?”
GAH, I hate that bit. Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s the TRUTH. It’s a RELATIONSHIP.
Gimme a break. Hate to break it to Jesus here, but you have a religion, just like so many other people. Special Snowflake Syndrome strikes the Christian Church.
Larry keeps at it, neatly displacing his anger at Riley and his boss onto Jesus (Ah-HA, just like atheists always displace their anger at others onto God! Man, atheists, right?)
Larry reiterates his earlier point that all the Christians he knows are “fakes.” And this appears to be not just Larry blowing smoke—his friends agree that their coworkers have a tendency to preach at them, but then don’t practice what they preach.
Oh, and smug Riley can kiss my ass. Yes, Larry knows what a heathen is, and he knows what a hypocrite is, and he lays out the definition very nicely for Jesus.
Jesus does not at all address Larry’s questions about Christian hypocrisy. (And get used to this—Jesus evades nearly all of Larry’s questions.) So Larry brings up his next point, that the reason Christians are hypocrites is that they don’t really believe–specifically, that they don’t really believe in Hell.
“The Bible stuff, it ain’t real to you, man. It’s something you heard, or something you were taught, or say you believe. But you really don’t.”
Apparently, Riley and other Christians at the factory regularly tell Larry and Mike and Vince and other non-Christians that they’re going to Hell unless they convert. So it comes to this for Larry:
“Now, if you guys really believed that, if you really believed that we were going to Hell when we die, your would do everything in your power to keep us from going there, am I right? Am I right?”
“Right!” [chorus Mike and Vince]
“Sure I am! You would do whatever it took, but you don’t, because the Bible stuff, it ain’t real to you, man.”
“Hey, Larry,” [interjects Jackson] “since this is such a big deal to you, then why don’t you go out there on the street and keep all those people from going to Hell?”
Jackson’s not real big on listening, is he?
“Look, I don’t even believe in this stuff, man. I’m just trying to show that these Christians don’t, either.”
I see Larry can take care of himself.
So, Larry asks Jesus directly if he, Larry, is going to Hell when he dies. (You can see this bit in the trailer.)
Jesus has a pithy response.
Jesus stares down at the empty counter (because seriously, it is taking Jackson forever to make one chicken sandwich), and when it becomes clear that he has nothing to say, Larry concludes that Jesus is just “another phony.”
But neither of them are done yet!
WILL Jesus ever answer a question about his not-a-religion? How big of a jerk IS Larry? Is Jackson an angel, or what?
Stay tuned for the second and final part!