'Courageous' mixes sermons, gunplay

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

Like the proverbial spoonful of sugar with medicine, a sermon is apparently more easily swallowed with chase scenes, gunplay and even flashes of non-sectarian wit.

But make no mistake, Courageous -- a widely distributed production from Baptist-run Sherwood Pictures (aka God's movie studio) -- is a two-hour-plus sermon about Jesus' desire for fathers to step up.

It's not the longest religious experience of my life. That would be a three-hour Orthodox midnight mass. But that didn't have anywhere near the production values of this movie.

If fact, this story of Born Again cops in Albany, Ga., begins and ends with a message that's relevant to atheists and agnostics too: That fatherless families represent an acute societal problem. It's presented in the squad room by the chief (who advises his men, and the odd woman, to "go home and love your families") at the movie's opening, and by the movie's putative hero, Cpl. Adam Mitchell, in testimony to his church in the finale.

It's about 25 minutes in before Jesus is even mentioned. You'll forgive me if I say these are Courageous's best minutes -- that blessed first act when it manages to make its point while entertaining the audience and not hitting it over the head with its message.

Courageous' cops are a uniformly devout bunch. The only non-religious one is a spectacularly inept deputy, who turns out to have a father issue of his own. (Don't worry, our congregation in blue gets to work on him.)

Hands down the most devout father is Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), a veteran cop who returns to Albany to raise his family. When we meet him, he's wrestled a car thief out of his moving SUV to save his child inside. Later, in a tender moment, he takes his teenage daughter out to dinner to convince her to wear a promise ring.

Arguably the worst father is Adam, who is so devoted to his job, he misses his daughter's piano recital and is losing his teenage son to video games (I know where you're coming from, brother).

Tragedy turns Adam's head around, and he turns you-know-where for answers. "There's so much in Scripture about being a father. I just never took the time to look it up," he enthuses. (I myself am a fan of Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which prescribes death for "stubborn and rebellious" children. I've held that one over my kids' heads a few times. But I digress.)

What's interesting about Courageous is how occasionally good the writing is. The best-written character is Javier (Robert Amaya), a jobless Chicano immigrant who prays for intervention and lands a job building a deck for Adam (who is waiting for another Javier, and assumes the first Mexican he sees is his guy). The scene where they sort out their confusion is actually an inspired bit of comedy.

And if you have a tendency to nod off during sermons, Courageous has a cure for that -- a noisy last act gun-battle with drug dealers that's primetime ready.

Five billion non-Christians in the world believe you don't necessarily have to accept Jesus in your heart to be a good father.

If you disagree with them, I highly recommend Courageous.

 


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