'Persecuted' an exercise in confusion

'Persecuted' an exercise in confusion

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Woe to the filmmakers of “Persecuted,” a confusing thriller about Christianity being under attack — or so it seems — and a well-known evangelist referenced by the title.

John Luther (played the always-capable James Remar, who you may recognize from the television series “Dexter”) is a minister who refuses to support a bill backed by Sen. Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison). The Faith and Fairness Act is backed by SUMAC (we’ve all heard of "poison sumac," right?), a kind of co-existence group. If approved, the bill could create equality for all religions. (I think. The movie doesn't explain this very well.)

Those corrupt politicians will stop at nothing to get the bill passed, and Luther ends up a suspect in the death of a 16-year-old girl. Luther, who has lost consciousness and doesn’t know where he is, is helped by a woman who comes along with bottled water, a cellphone and what appears to be a “co-exist” sticker on the back of her van (huh?)

Luther makes it on foot to a convenience store, where he drinks water, or tries to, from a soda machine. (I’m thinking it would have been a lot more private and practical to ask the location of the washroom and get water there.) The other puzzling factor is that he walks right by a squad car that’s parked there. Wouldn’t it be easy to ask a police officer for help and explain his situation?

No matter. Luther, a former drug addict whose past seems to have something to go with these goings-on, manages to have a conversation with his father (Fred Dalton Thompson) and then goes on the lam to try to uncover who’s behind his character assassination and has set him up for the crime. Meanwhile, his right-hand man (played by Christian comic Brad Stine) takes over the ministry.

One of the more bewildering aspects of the movie is that Thompson (a former Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee) plays Luther’s father. Thompson is 11 years older than Remar, but he doesn’t look it. At first, I couldn’t believe Remar was calling him “Dad.” Does Thompson's character appear to be a priest? There’s a rosary involved, but I have no idea what’s happening here.

One of the most flabbergasting shootouts in filmdom occurs along with the rest of the mess, which includes the tired theme of a too-absent father.

What an incredible waste of talent. Dean Stockwell is in here, too, and Fox News viewers will recognize Gretchen Carlson as a TV anchor.

This less-than-stellar exercise should have gone straight to DVD. It’s sure to show up in that format soon.

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