Monday, December 19, 2011

The Grace Card

Finally! An evangelical Christian movie that delivers the goods. The Grace Card is an excellent, well crafted film that took me by surprise. Over the years, it’s been well documented that most Christian films seldom achieve the production values of typical mainstream Hollywood movies. The Grace Card has broken through the barrier and delivers credible dialogue, a solid story, and polished production values.

Folks, this film looks amazing. It’s been reported that The Grace Card was made with a paltry $200,000 budget by a first-time director, David G. Evans, whose day job is a full-time Optometrist. Evans followed the playbook from the producers who made Fireproof and Courageous. He mixed a professional crew along with volunteers to keep the budget in check; however, he was wise to bring in veteran Hollywood screenwriter Howard Klausner (Space Cowboys) to write the script. Believe me; it made all the difference in the world.

Klausner elevated the material to emphasize the dramatic moments in a realistic and gritty manner, which is necessary to make this story plausible and believable. John Paul Clark, who is the film’s Director of Photography, was masterful in shooting the rugged landscape of Memphis, Tennessee. The aerial shots were also an added bonus. I’m not saying that The Grace Card is perfect by any means. It does have some issues, especially the ending. But, as I said, this is a major step forward in the right direction for Christian films.

The Grace Card tells the story of patrolman Mac McDonald (Michael Joiner), who lost his first-born son in a tragic accident due to a drug deal gone bad. Seventeen years later, Mac is still trying to put his life back together. He has an enormous attitude problem at home and at work and has been repeatedly passed over for promotion. On the home front, his relationship with his teenage son is deteriorating. In fact, all of his relationships are in a state of decay. I’m not sure Mac sees any point in living. He’s merely going through the motions.

Adding to the frustration is his newly appointed partner Sam Wright (Mike Higgenbottom), who is a part-time pastor. Sam is an African American who has just been promoted to Sargeant. Making matters worse, Sam detects a notable racist attitude oozing from Mac.

Sam is struggling with coming to terms with whether or not he wants to be a full-time pastor or a life-time career police officer. But his real struggle is how does he lives out his Christian values and extend grace to someone who clearly dislikes him? Adding a word of wisdom and counsel is the Reverend George Wright played by Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. who is Sam’s grandfather. Rev. George helps steer Sam onto the right path by sharing a story about Sam’s great, great grandfather.

The Grace Card offers plenty of twists and turns. All of the characters will have to come to terms with the issue of grace and how it is applied. I’m struck with just how good this movie is. The Grace Card makes a case that Christianity is a great concept; however, trying to live it and put it into practical application is another matter. The fact is without grace and freely applying it, it is impossible to live a Christian life. Where do we find the power the power to give grace freely?

The Grace Card is set against the backdrop of inner city Memphis with its racial strife and division. Cleverly, the movie makes a point that instead of playing the race card, perhaps the way we can heal our differences is to play the grace card. As I said earlier, The Grace Card is not perfect by any means. The ending is a bit simplistic and, frankly, not plausible. In the real world, it’s unlikely that everything can be wrapped up into a neat package.

The producers felt the need to write a perfect ending in which everyone find’s forgiveness and redemption. I just wish they would have left a few strings hanging. It’s also sad to say that The Grace Card does follow the typical Christian playbook a well. Yes, we have someone at the altar coming to Jesus. In life, redemption and healing takes time. It’s a process. I just wish the producers could have had a little bit more faith in the audience to understand that grace itself is a process. And, just like growing a plant, you have to add water frequently to make it grow.

1 comment:

  1. I saw it at The Underground Railroad Freedom Center and found it to be a powerful film, especially in that setting. The audience and panel discussion focused primarily on the racial tensions and the fact that both blacks and whites need the grace of God. It actually shows that both groups need mercy and grace not just the white guys. The sub text is racial suspicions and unresolved anger.certainly the altar scene made all things right in a fantastic ending but it deserves 3.5 stars out of 5.