By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Faith-based "what if" thriller is boring, violent.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though not entirely clear, the movie seems to be arguing that one religion is better/purer than all the others and that the people who wish for total religious freedom are corrupt, greedy, and worse.
Positive Role Models
One character is an evangelist preacher who seems to genuinely want to do the right thing for his congregation. But he spends much of the movie on the run, fighting, sneaking around, arguing, and trying to clear his name.
Violence & Scariness
A young woman is murdered, and subsequent news reports mention that she was raped. The movie ends with a chase and shootout, and minor characters are shot and killed. A man is shot through the temple, with blood shown. The main character is stabbed (either with a knife or a hypodermic needle; it's hard to see). He's beat up and spends much of the movie with bloody wounds on his face. There's a car chase and car crash. A woman is slapped in the face.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The bad guys want to set up the hero with fake sex photos. The man is drugged, and a woman is paid to look as if she's engaging in sexual acts with him. Photos are taken as she pretends to be with him. The woman says, "you're a bad boy" during this time. No nudity or anything graphic is shown.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character is said to be a reformed alcoholic and drug addict; he never relapses onscreen, though characters bring it up. A man is seen drinking champagne, and another man smokes a cigar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Persecuted is a faith-based thriller about wrongful accusation. There's some violence against women: A young woman is hired to pose for fake photos as part of a plot to set up a respected evangelist, pretending to have sex with him (nothing graphic is shown), and is then murdered. Later it's reported that she was raped. The main character is drugged and beaten up and spends a large portion of the film with bloody cuts on his face. A man is shot through the temple, and the movie climaxes in a chase and shootout, with many minor characters killed. The main character is said to be a recovered alcoholic and drug addict. Other characters are seen drinking champagne and smoking cigars. Language isn't an issue.
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What's the Story?
In PERSECUTED, the U.S. government is hoping to pass the "Faith & Fairness" act, which, though not explained, is supposed to provide total religious freedom across the country (despite the fact that the First Amendment already takes care of this). Senator Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison) can't pass the bill without the support of popular evangelist John Luther (James Remar), but Luther refuses. He believes that the bill will somehow dilute the Christian faith. So Harrison, with the approval of the president himself, arranges to frame Luther for the rape and murder of an innocent young woman. Luther soon finds himself the subject of a huge manhunt, struggling to clear his name and return to his flock before it's too late.
Is It Any Good?
Persecuted starts on the wrong foot and never recovers. The movie's entire concept is fatally flawed, from the refusal to explain what the "Faith & Fairness" act actually is or does to the idea that the people behind it would commit murder to ensure its passage. The evangelist's vehement refusal to support the bill makes even less sense, given that, based on its cursory description, it sounds pretty good. Hence, nothing makes any logical sense.
From there, the movie descends into a "wrongly accused" plot, which Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang could do well, but which director Daniel Lusko is entirely unequipped to handle. The characters (even trained pros) make dozens of rookie mistakes -- for example, Luther steals a surveillance camera to get the footage inside, though the footage would more likely be on a hard drive in another room. Plot threads, such as a painstakingly passed secret note, are forgotten. It's possible the target Christian fan base may enjoy the movie, but for most viewers, it won't be worth the effort.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Persecuted's violence. How is it used? Is it essential to the story? Is any of it too graphic to get the point across?
What are the movie's themes? Is it for or against religious freedom in America? Why do you think that? Who do you think the movie is intended to appeal to?
The main character is honest about his former abuse of alcohol, gambling, and drugs. Does that make you respect him more or less? Is he a positive role model?
- In theaters: July 18, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: October 14, 2014
- Cast: James Remar, Bruce Davison, Fred Dalton Thompson
- Director: Daniel Lusko
- Studio: Millennium Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence and thematic elements
- Last updated: April 4, 2023
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