MOVIE REVIEW: 'Persecuted' fails as a thriller aimed at the Religious Right

James Remar stars in "Persecuted," a thriller that fails to create tension even with an evil government plot and the under-the-table moves of a multi-million dollar TV ministry.

Starring James Remar, Bruce Davison, Fred Dalton Thompson, Gretchen Carlson, Brad Stine; directed by Daniel Lusko; 91 minutes; PG-13 for violence and thematic elements; F

 

The unholy bond between religion and politics is the background for "Persecuted," a confused and confusing thriller about a TV preacher ruined by a sinister government plot.

Written and directed by Daniel Lusko, who has Christian documentaries among his credits, and having ex-GOP senator Fred Dalton Thompson and Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson in its cast, you can guess its politics.

But the targets are less clearly defined than you might expect. There are evil feds and righteous ones. There are veiled attacks on a congressional effort to give all religions equal standing, and federal tax money. The president is a devious Clinton look-alike. But big-time religion takes it on the chin, too.

James Remar, who broke out in films 35 years ago with "The Warriors" and later as the villain of "48 Hours," is cast against type as John Luther, an ex-drug addict who now leads Truth Live!, a crusade that he aims to keep above politics, above religious denominations.

Sinister Sen. Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison) is pressuring Luther to endorse The Faith and Fairness Act. Luther isn't having it. But he's been warned.

A drive home takes a turn toward the honey trap they've set for him. A girl dies. Luther is on the lam, hunted by the law.

The safe way to approach this is as the thriller it is supposed to be, and as such, "Persecuted" is pretty limp. There's no urgency to the performances, no ticking clock to Luther's desperate bid to clear his name. Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers

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