Thursday, February 14, 2013

Preaching to the Choir, Series 1: The Kendrick Brothers. Film 4: “Courageous”

With “Courageous,” the Kendrick brothers finally have an ensemble with all major and major-supporting roles filled with actors up to par for the writing.  Ken Bevel is back, this time paired up with Alex Kendrick as the two leads.  Robert Amaya is adorable as the hardworking Javier, the only father not also a cop in the film.  The wives and even the children turn in strong, genuine performances, buoyed up by the ever-improving production values.

But once again, the greatest strength of the film is in the writing.  The story is cleverly constructed, pulling five different fathers in very different life circumstances in to examine the importance of fatherhood, with the apt metaphor of the police motto—“to protect and serve”—as the image of a father’s proper role in a Christian home. 

Again, the connections are deft, the humor is warm, the illustration is strong, and the story is far from cliché or predictable.  They are now working with some professionals on the crew, and this shows in the production values.  A standout example is a brief but striking moment, a slow continuous pan past a house as people and cars fade in and out, coming and going in the aftermath of a funeral, speaking volumes about the family’s desolation and their visitors’ impotence to comfort in a few eloquent seconds.

Don’t get the impression of a quiet, moody film, though.  These guys are cops, and the movie begins with an action sequence that’ll get your heart rate up and climaxes in a shoot out.  It has got its share of popcorn-spilling moments. 

Unlike any of the previous three films, I was a bit disappointed with the final scene of this one, for being just a bit too overtly preachy.  I’m not sure whether it just isn’t Kendrick’s strongest point to speak from the pulpit (he does seem at his best in the moments of greatest emotional vulnerability, rather than the rousing ones), or whether the editing was just a tad too far in the “two by four” mode; but especially the very last image of the film and the abrupt cut from it felt awkward and a bit forced.  The speech is well written, and certainly justified in the context, but somehow it just didn’t flow as smoothly as one would wish, especially after a film which, for the most part, was the smoothest and strongest-flowing one yet from Sherwood pictures.  This minor bobble aside, though, yet another definite keeper from the Kendrick brothers. 

I for one would love to see more, but if this is “all she wrote” from these guys, I’d call it a strong and worthwhile legacy. 

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