Thr3eReviewed By Todd LaPlace
Posted 01/07/07 16:17:23
I’d never heard of best-selling author Ted Dekker before seeing “Thr3e.” I’d also never heard of Neale Walsch or his books before I saw “Conversations with God,” so you can see my total lack of knowledge when it comes to Christian merchandise. I once went into a store called Amen Corner to buy a pink rosary for my friend Jennifer, but that might be my only exposure to this billion-dollar industry. But if all of the Christian media is as inspiring as “Thr3e,” I think I’m okay living in ignorance.Christ is the new black. At least, that’s what many Hollywood studios are betting on as dozens of Christian-themed movies are making their way through the pipeline in the hopes of being part of the billion-dollar Christian merchandise industry. When “The Passion of the Christ” hit in 2004 (with $370 million in domestic box office alone, which means it’s currently the eleventh highest-grossing movie ever), it makes sense that studios would be rushing to copy the formula and grab their share of the pie. But as “The Nativity Story” proves, the devout aren’t about to blindly shell out their money on everything Jesus. It’s starting to look like “Passion” was just a fluke.
Twentieth Century Fox is probably praying that’s not the case, as their newest division, Fox Faith, rolls out its first theatrical feature, Christian thriller “Thr3e.” Sharing more in common that a lack of spell check, “Thr3e” aspires to be a new version of “Se7en” — with a generous helping of “Saw” added for good measure — but without the swearing, the blood, the gore and the gratification. It wants to be a thriller, but is too pious to be interesting, and it wants to be Christian, but is too secular to be religious. In attempting to have it both ways, “Thr3e” ends up with nothing but a lot of generic tense and missed opportunities.
“Buffy’s” blandest boyfriend Marc Blucas stars as Kevin Parson, a seminary student completing his ph.D. by examining the nature of good vs. evil. He is also the latest target of the Riddle Killer, a Jigsaw-like executioner that creates elaborate traps and riddles to taunt the victim with the possibility of escape. Receiving a phone call on his way home from class, Kevin is told by RK to confess his sins or his car will explode in three minutes. Simply hopping out of the car in an alley, Kevin becomes the first survivor, but starts on a journey into a sordid past of abuse and neglect with his mentally unstable relatives, Aunt Belinda (Priscilla Barnes, doing her best Courtney Love impersonation) and fez-wearing Uncle Eugene (Tom Bower), who both still believe Eisenhower to be the best and only president.
Somewhere in the midst of numerous nonsensical flashbacks, the film attempts to connect RK to a boy Kevin caught spying on childhood friend Samantha (Laura Jordan), who conveniently shows up at Kevin’s door despite years apart. Eventually, the past begins to mesh with present events and the stories reach a climax, although hardly a satisfying one. After a series of obtuse puzzles are instantly solved and potential disasters are narrowly diverted, the implausibility of it all is simply too much. Narratively, I think the problem lies with character Jennifer Peters (Justine Waddell), a police psychologist who’s constantly playing catch up with Kevin and Samantha. She’s a police officer, a psychologist and her brother was a victim, so she should have plenty of talent and drive in cracking the case, especially when the finale is riddled with so many obvious holes that the killer should have been caught within a few hours.
But ultimately, the fault lies with director Robby Hensen and “Left Behind” screenwriter Alan B. McElroy. They seem so committed to maintaining the Christian ideals of Ted Dekker’s original story — so if you’re waiting for someone to saw off a foot, you’ll have to wait a little longer — that they let a few too many small things slide and as one character tells Kevin at the beginning of the film, the devil’s in the details. I won’t get into the plethora of police procedure faults revealed in the closing minutes in order to protect the film’s terribly obvious twist, but one story element I don’t understand is why Kevin is so upset at RK setting up fans to blow his thesis out his loft windows. It’s 2007 and no one uses typewriters anymore. Unless Kevin’s a moron, there’s got to be a saved copy on a computer or a disk somewhere, right? Could he really be that technologically inept? And what city’s primary newspaper is a tabloid covered almost exclusively in photos? I realize it allows the crazy to cut the pictures out more easily, but even Kevin’s mentally challenged cousin Bob (Jeffrey Lee Hollis) knows a newspaper uses words. And Hensen doesn’t help anything by haphazardly piecing his film together without any sense of narrative flow. French director Jean-Luc Godard can get away with jump cutting, but Hensen’s randomly placed fades — sometimes jarringly and unnecessarily fading out of and back into the same scene — look more like a small editing budget than a conscious avant-garde decision. I’m not exactly sure where the budget went, though, because it certainly didn’t get spent on the laughable special effects. I’m pretty sure I could have used crayons on the negative and drawn more realistic fire. Every aspect of the construction of the film is seemingly backburnered to get in a final line of dialogue about how we all “need the power of God” in order to survive the battle of good vs. evil. In order to squeeze Jesus into the final few moments of an otherwise standard thriller, McElroy and Hensen have neglected their craft and committed a pretty heinous sin in Hollywood. And when it comes to business, Hollywood might just be bigger than Jesus.In case you were wondering, yes, I was raised a Catholic, so I do have some familiarity with all things Jesus. And yes, I did hate “The Passion of the Christ,” so I do have some apprehension with all things Jesus invading my multiplex. But if “Thr3e” is any indication, the studios won’t be taking the Jesus fad very far. At least they’ve got those penguins to fall back on.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|