Directed by George Ratliff
Because religion is such a globally ubiquitous hot-button topic, delving into extremist territory, it's depiction on film tends to skew either severe or satirical. In the case of George Ratliff's Salvation Boulevard, a murder mystery comedy with a religious fundamentalist slant, the Joshua and Hell House director takes the latter road unabashedly without a great deal of aplomb, reaching for Saved hilarity but coming up with something more akin to Leap of Faith. Focusing on former Deadhead Carl (Greg Kinnear), now a religious family man married to evangelical fanatic Gwen (Jenifer Connelly), the basic plot posits him as the patsy after Pastor Dan (Pierce Brosnan) shoots opposing atheist Dr. Blaylock (Ed Harris) over a difference in opinion (a nod to Christian vengeance and their historically violent approach to conflict resolution). This leads to an elaborate rollercoaster plot that has Carl team up with security guard Honey Foster (Marisa Tomei), a practicing Deadhead and marijuana connoisseur, as he attempts to set things straight. Guns are fired and accusations of infidelity run amuck, as do logic and tonal consistency. There is little character development before this wild plot is set in motion, which leaves the ensuing series of gags to propel the story. Unfortunately, Ratliff doesn't fully infuse some of the barbed opinions of the evangelical religious world with slapstick humour, making for limited cohesion in flow. The one saving grace for Salvation is the actors' performances. Tomei's depiction of a carefree, sexually liberal pothead security guard is hilariously astute and detailed, much like Connelly's over-the-top read of a hypocritical, unlikeable religious zealot. As the movie reaches its conclusion, a kernel of wit becomes apparent in the religious refusal to acknowledge common sense or practical logic, but the story's too loosely thrown together for this point to come to fruition. The DVD lacks any sort of supplement features, which doesn't come as a surprise for a film that never made wide release in theatres despite having an A-list cast.
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