Movie Time: The Grace Card

    The Grace Card is a story of a man who struggles  with anger stemming from the death of his young son.  He struggles with being paired with another policeman who is also a pastor. Together the two men learn about anger and grace.

    The Grace Card was written by Howard Klausner and directed by David Evans. It features performances by Louis Gossett Jr., Micheal Joiner and Michael Higgenbottom

image from wikipedia

She Said: The Grace Card

I’ve said it before a million times and I’ll probably say it a million more. I will support good Christian cinema. However, I am repeatedly disappointed in the area of faith-based entertainment. I think that what Sherwood Baptist Church (Fireproof, Courageous) has done for Christian movies is tremendous and I hope their ministry keeps growing and seeking to excel. I think based of their success that many will try but I don’t know how many will succeed. I found The Grace Card to be very lacking in many elements that make a movie, especially a Christian one great.

The story is not particularly strong.  The Grace Card focuses on trying to tell the story of two (somewhat clichéd) men. Mac (the “angry” one) and Sam “(the Christian one) and as typical in a Christian movie one is angry and dealing with a painful past and the other is struggling to live out their faith. I realize that this is really the story of all us who are Christians and how we want to reach out for Christ to the world around us. Can’t it be handled better this though? I think it can. These characters are types; they don’t feel like people because the angry man, Mac, is just too angry (and I say this as someone who used to be a very angry person). We learn very early on (no spoiler here) that Mac is very affected by the surprise death of young son.  What is somewhat difficult to catch is on to is that there is a passage of 17 years that occurs early in the film. The styling, the storytelling every element doesn’t help to clarify this.  A film has a major problem if you can’t tell the passage of time.  We journey on with the two men to discover how Mac and Sam being put together as partners will impact their lives. It’s not a very satisfying journey and the story suffers from heavy handed and “predictable “ dialogue.

The thing that upsets me the most is that for a movie that is supposed to be about grace we never actually hear about how to accept grace! It made me really angry that a movie that claimed to be a Christian movie wouldn’t include the message by how we confess our sins and asks for Jesus’ gift of salvation.  I wish that they had shared some Scripture and explained how easy it is to accept the most precious of gifts and be forgiven.  We even see what I imagine is a conversion scene but we aren’t able to hear what is prayed.  The grace cards that they had out are wonderful but I felt the movie didn’t make a strong enough connection about how the only way we are able to extend grace- by accepting Jesus’ grace first.

At the end of the movie they do share part of Epeshians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-  not by works so that no one can boast.”

But, I wish they had shared a little more.

The acting is really poor in this movie. I had the feeling that I was watching rehearsal footage not a finished performance.  The only person who gave a very strong performance is the woman who played a grief counselor. She showed a good amount of range and did a nice job in her scenes.  Another small acting/casting thing that bothered me is the casting of Sam’s daughters. When his two little girls burst onto the scene I thought how cute they look like Sasha and Malia Obama. I also wondered why two kids of that age were fighting over a stuffed toy. Later in the movie we find out that the children are 7 and 5. NO WAY!!! Those two beautiful little girls are years older and it makes some of the dialogue not work and is just plain weird that they are clearly much older than the script says. They should have adjusted either the line or all their dialogue and actions.  Louis Gossett Jr. is a wonderful actor and his performance is fine but nothing remarkable or memorable.

This movie is a little more graphic then other Christian movies that I have seen. I don’t enjoy violence and tension at all in movies. I understand that they may have their place, but I do feel that they need to be handled respectfully.  I don’t think is movie was excessively gratuitous at all but it was much more suspenseful and violent than movies I am used to watching.  If you are someone who enjoys police movies and shows then this probably won’t seem like a big deal to you at all. But if you are like me and you typically stick to musicals or romantic comedies it’s a little shocking and uncomfortable to watch.

This movie also suffers from a modern movie problem that really plagues me. It’s too quiet!! I don’t want to have to watch a movie on volume level 35 or 40 and still miss words!

I liked the music that was used in this film. They were able to use hip-hop and rock music with lyrics that weren’t objectionable but helped set the tone of the characters and situations. They also used a song by my favorite band Third Day, “Cry Out to Jesus” and if you haven’t heard it, you should check it out! It’s a really uplifting song that acknowledges our struggles and how Jesus is always ready to offer us rescue. I did really enjoy the music

I really wanted to like this movie. I wanted it to be good and powerful. I hope that it speaks to many people but it left me wanting more.

Rating- 2

He Said:  The Grace Card

Kari and I really enjoy watching Christian movies because even if they aren’t very good at least they probably won’t be offensive, and we can make it through the whole movie.  As time goes on, the production values of Christian movies have greatly improved, and made them more enjoyable to watch.  The Grace Card is a well-produced movie, but ultimately struggles to entertain.

The movie makes some very good points about reflecting God’s grace to those around us, even when it involves people that make it very difficult.  Adding race, and racism into the conversation make for a very interesting starting point. Unfortunately that’s all it really is, a good starting point.  There are a couple of good performances here, but overall the acting is uninspired.  Cindy Hodge is wonderful in her small role as Dr. Vines, as are Rob Erickson as Blake McDonald, and Mike Higgenbottom as Sam Wright.  Michael Joiner has some good moments as Mac McDonald, but didn’t feel very consistent.  Joy Parmer Moore as Sara McDonald, and Dawntoya Thomason as Debra Wright were almost painful to watch as the wives of the main characters.

The overall problem here is the writing. It is apparent that they were trying for another Sherwood based success like Fireproof. That sentiment really shows, but not in any good way.  Imitation maybe the sincerest form of flattery, but it doesn’t work here.  It helps this movie even less that Sherwood’s follow-up Courageous also focused on police.  Fireproof had a knowing older figure, so The Grace Card does too, even if he adds much less to the story.  Fireproof used The Love Dare as a central plot device, so this movie, of course has to have “The Grace Card.”  Here’s the problem, while The Love Dare really is integral to the plot of Fireproof, the titular grace card is not a big focus, and ultimately the film would have been better without it.  It’s a gimmick that’s shoehorned into the plot.  The closing scene in this movie is also a little too convenient and provides a very unrealistic sense of closure.  The biggest problem is a moment that felt very natural to have a discussion of salvation, and it is never mentioned.  That’s a big problem for me in a movie that is screaming with everything it can that it’s about God’s grace.  There’s no grace without Jesus’ gift, so why is it left entirely undiscussed.

In the end, this movie comes off as an impression of a Sherwood production, not something of its own.  If you want to see an inspiring movie about policemen, watch Courageous instead.  There’s a good movie in here somewhere, it’s just a shame they didn’t make it.

Rating- 3