Fair warning: Although I tried to limit potential spoilers, this review may have some minor ones or, at least, some clues that could lead one to figure out major spoilers for the movie. Read at your own risk.
Watching The Reconciler, the often quoted old phrase, “God works in mysterious ways,” comes to mind. Although you won’t locate that phrase anywhere in the Bible, it still comes to mind due to the events of this movie. I can’t say whether those events will be positive or negative for some people, I can foresee some Christians questioning a major element of the storyline. This element was necessary and I don’t want to give it away since it is a major spoiler as well, but I will try to speak about it without revealing too much later in the review.
The Reconciler perceivably has a triple plotline running through it. In a way, the plots are connected, but again, I don’t want to give away too much. The main plot involves a serial kidnapper dubbed “The Reconciler” by a reporter named Ed, played by writer, Scott Galbraith. The Reconciler’s motive involves kidnapping two individuals whose relationship has dissolved into hostility or was never existent at all. He usually locks them up somewhere, or in the case of two victims, leaves them in a place remote in order for them to work out their issues. The two most recent kidnapped victims happen to be Ed, the man who has been reporting on Reconciler cases for a while and two twin brothers, played by Jeremy and Jourdan Steel. Running alongside this plot is one about a reporter named Laurie, played by Sherry Morris, who is given an assignment by her editor, Russ, played by the late, great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Laurie happens to be a believer who fell away, at least, someone initially influenced by Christianity, but never established a relationship with God. Still, there’s one particular scene, which to me, indicates she’s in a state of attempting to turn away from God after already knowing him. However, due to the assignment Russ gives Laurie, her plot also involves a small subplot involving a newspaper article about the moral decline of the United States due to the removal of God from nearly every facet of our lives.
The Reconciler is, of course, an independently produced film. Produced by Justice Pictures, it is directed by Shawn Justice and also written by him, as well as Scott Galbraith, who, again, also does a good job portraying Ed. According to IMDB trivia for the movie, The Reconciler was shot over an 11-day period. This is remarkable considering the film’s quality. So, do not pick it up expecting special effects, etc. of a big budget Hollywood film. One should resolve some patience with the movie as well for these reasons. Still, none of this takes away from the storyline unless the viewer is considerably spoiled by big-budget productions and absolutely cannot get past that fact. I personally believe Shawn Justice and company did a fine job.
As far as acting goes, I believe there is some allowance due to the short filming time of the movie if the trivia is true. Still, I felt everyone did their jobs well. I wasn’t distracted by unrealistic portrayals of emotions or bad delivery of dialogue or any of that. As I said in the Revelation Road Saga review, I believe sometimes we, as in Christians, get trapped in the secular mindset when it comes to entertainment. When something Christian comes along, we usually deliver the same criticism of the secular crowd by throwing around claims of campiness, wooden dialogue, etc. Granted, I agree some writers and directors can inspire characters that completely pull you in emotionally, but they often have a longer work time as opposed to The Reconciler. Again, let me stress, I felt the actors and actresses of major characters in the story did a wonderful job.
This may be a good place to offer criticisms of the film….
My main criticism involves the potential triple plotline. It’s possibly apparent the subplot about the moral decline of the United States was meant to be a plot device in order to carry Laurie’s character to her conclusive goal at the end of the story. Still, as someone who recognizes this issue and appreciated the opening statements regarding this potential third plot, I wanted to see it play out. At the very least, it would’ve been nice to see Laurie give an inner monologue at the end about what she wrote in her newspaper article and how it all related to the issues in the film. To be fair, you do receive some connectivity, and I won’t give away what that is, but this is primarily for Laurie. It doesn’t necessarily tie together her newspaper article and some of the statements by Russ and Pastor Dan that potentially will get a viewer invested in that portion of the storyline. These statements begin with Russ discussing with Laurie about how he feels “there is a progression in society, equal rights, a lot of good done,” but for some reason, to him and others, “everything still looks gray, gloomy, like things are getting worse” and he feels “it’s because people have forgotten God.” Also, after Laurie takes the assignment to write about the moral decline of America, or as Russ called it, “The Graying of America,” she interviews Pastor Dan as part of her angle to interview religious leaders. During the interview, the two discuss moral relativism. It’s very clear once Laurie mentions to Pastor Dan that, “there aren’t clear lines on morality and what everybody thought was right and wrong is now right for some and wrong for others.” Pastor Dan responds, “Well, when you systematically remove God from the equation, that’s pretty much where it ends up.” However, as I said, this topic begins to take a back seat in a way, to Laurie’s personal journey and reconciliation with God. That’s not bad, it’s just I wanted to see how those opening statements around the news article would tie in with everything else. To be fair I can see the connection, but I guess the junior philosopher and apologist in me were hoping for something more direct. This isn’t a deal closing issue for the movie; it’s just a personal critique I have about the finality of the story as a whole. As I said, there’s a way to connect all of this, and I will explain that as I go into the positive things about the movie.
Furthermore, I can possibly see some complaint about character development for some of the characters. With this, I would say this would depend on how nitpicky someone would want to be. The twin brothers, James and Alex, who are the most recent victims of the Reconciler, were developed really well. Their story conveys the real life stories of so many professing Christians today. Their disagreement was developed realistically. Ed’s character worked for what he was meant to do for the story. Laurie’s character was good, however, I would agree there could have been some admission as to why she ended up where she did spiritually prior to her closure at the end. Beyond that, the extra characters were meant to help develop the plot. You will not see how most of them ended up where they did emotionally, spiritually and in life prior to the events in the movie. However, much of it is expressed through dialogue like James and Alex. I didn’t see this as an issue, although I could see someone else raising it, depending on their idiosyncrasies.
There is another foreseeable critique from a theological perspective. Unfortunately, I feel reluctant to get into it because doing so could invoke a major spoiler for the film. I will simply try, to put it this way: I can potentially see some Christians raising an issue with the way God works in the film. One particular issue may be justifiable deception on behalf of God by a spiritual entity. I really hope that does not give anything away, but for those who will choose to raise this criticism, I would like to remind them of 1 Kings 22: 1-40, granted from a theological perspective, I am aware of the debates around that passage. However, for those unaware, God allows a lying spirit to inspire false prophesies among the prophets advising King Ahab in ancient Israel. This leads to Ahab’s destruction and acts out God’s judgment on Ahab. There is, of course, some controversy around this event, and I don’t want to distract from this review too much going in depth dealing with said controversy. However, if that passage isn’t good enough, remember Rahab of Joshua 2-6, who helped the Israelite spies and deceived her own leaders as to their whereabouts. She was counted as a heroine of faith in Hebrews 11. For those who raise the issue with God permitting relative deception in these events, I would first say that in and of itself is the key reply to that criticism. God permits, he does not deceive himself. Therefore, this does not chaf with the innate nature of God and his inability to “tell a lie.” Second, I take the position of recognizing God’s sovereignty in all things as He is the creator of all things. Therefore, he has the right to do things according to His will. Third, often times with this issue and the issue of Pharaoh’s heart, these incidents are a product of judgment due to prior transgressions of these people towards God or innocents. People like to forget that latter issue in this situation. That’s all I want to say about the potential controversy regarding any perceived deception of a direct agent working on behalf of God in the movie.
Moving on to the positive points….
The major positive thing about the movie, which is relationships, really resonated with me. In my own life, I had to transition into a discovery of what a relationship with God meant and by extension relationships as a whole. Without going into the entirety of my life prior to this continual revelation, I’ll simply say, that before this, the Bible and God were wrapped up in fear, laws, rules, order and deadness to me. There was no life, no trust; there was belief, but as James wrote, and I’m quoting out of context here, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Still, to be honest, my relationships are not entirely perfect yet, just like in the film. I have work to do as well as others around me, and my problems are born from issues from my own family. Much of that negatively influenced my relationship with God despite my belief in Him. This aspect of the movie was clear. Relationship is the most important factor when it comes to being right with God. While doctrine, dogma, and righteousness are indeed important, if you do not have a relationship with God, a true one, all of that will be an outward portrayal of an attempt to perfect yourself. According to Matthew 23:27-28, as Jesus retorted to the Scribes and Pharisees, if we only care about an outward appearance of Godliness and not a relationship, we run the risk of being “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” We’ll “outwardly appear righteous to others,” but within we will be devoid of any true righteousness, any true holiness, any true relationship and commitment to God. Some of you out there reading this may say, “Leroy, that still sounds pretty legalistic, pretty dogmatic, pretty regulative and religious.” I would reply with, “You’re missing the point.” Without going into a full Bible study on the matter, the point is the entire movie is about reconciliation of relationships. As a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is about humanity’s reconciliation with God after the fall. The movie has a unique, creative way of handling that.
In regards to my earlier main criticism of the movie’s storyline as it pertains to Laurie and her article and the overall connection to those two plots, it is with reconciliation and relationship that Laurie’s plot, at least, connects to the overall point of the story. However, the article portion of her storyline regarding the “Graying of America” as far as the moral decline due to gradual separation from God, is where my contention still lies. Still, to be fair, the story does connect her to the overall reconciliation point in two ways. First, I’ll simply say two of The Reconciler’s prior victims are related to Laurie. Second, the situation of said victims is also a catalyst for Laurie’s own reconciliation in her life. I can concede that this potentially connects to the moral decline of the United States as it pertains to overall relationships with God and between humans as a result of the disconnects in both.
The second positive point is the movie’s testament to God’s continual direct activity. Often times, even Christians take a sort of “practical atheist” approach to God in the busyness of life. Relationship problems are often taken to a counselor, not that this is a bad move or anything, but it’s something we have developed. I can only speak for modern Western civilization on this, but it is developed as a part of that society. The point is that with practical matters, we often regulate that to what we perceive to be pragmatic answers. In other words, we take a natural view of the issue. Only our therapist can help us mend our relationships, and if said therapist can’t help, then those relationships are just forever broken in our minds. In the movie, it really echoed with me regarding God’s direct activity when it comes to these things. I really enjoyed that aspect of the movie.
Also, with this came balance. There was a relative providential aspect as well with Laurie. With Russ giving her the assignment and the people she spoke to; it was obvious this was a predetermined providential path she was put on. Granted, when you watch the movie there is a clear direct intervention moment when she interviews one particular person. I won’t give that away.
The third positive of the movie is my expressed enjoyment of how James’ and Alex’s characters were written, directed and acted. I really thought the brothers, Jeremy and Jourdan Steel, did a wonderful job. Their story really captured me. I saw so much of myself in these two brothers. The judgment, the hurt, the rejection, the resentment and the reconciliation were well played out.
The fourth positive thing I noticed about the movie is the recognition of imperfection amongst professing Christians. Again, James and Alex’s issues present this so well. Some of the dialogue of Emma Davis Zimmerman’s, played by Sally Skelding, portrays this as well. She mentions in passing to Laurie about the imperfections of her life as a Christian. Of course, this primarily pertains to the movie’s main message which is true relationship with God. How she and her husband did not draw closer to Him until old age when her husband died, but before they were busy allowing life, wealth, etc. distract them is so true in today’s society. Often times, I wrestle with this pet peeve regarding false perfections in Christians and subsequent false portrayals of perfect Christians in Christian entertainment. This is not to say that a Christian should be seen not portraying fundamental Christian principles, but people forget we are just that, people. We’re still human beings wrestling with temptations, and sometimes, we lose the battle when we forget to rely on God for His grace and strength. We try to go at it ourselves. To be honest, this only scratches the surface of all the complexities of the human condition and how to portray it in movies, stories, etc. Some of us have similar issues, some of us have unique issues, but the point is we all have issues, even Christians. While the movie did not dive deep into this portion of reality, I was happy to see the overall story not only deals with this, but the existence of Christian imperfection was indeed at the forefront of the film.
I want to say a few quick things about the DVD. As with any DVD, there are special features. With The Reconciler, there is a tribute to the late and great former WWE Champion, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, in the special features. In it, producer and direct Shawn Justice gives a heartfelt personal contribution to this tribute. This was a good addition to the DVD. Also, with the special features, you get to watch the movie with the director’s commentary. Personally, I chose to refrain from watching the commentary before my review in order to keep my review genuine regarding my original thoughts instead of having my thoughts influenced by potential answers to my questions. There is a production photo gallery as well.
The story overall is great because it’s message is delivered well. Relationships are an essential part of life. If you’re interested you can learn about The Reconciler here, find it on Amazon or at Walmart.