Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Beyond the Mask premieres in theaters tonight (4/6)

Synopsis (from the film’s website): The leading mercenary for the British East India Company, Will Reynolds has just been double-crossed and now is on the run in the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the affections of the woman with whom he’s never been fully truthful, Will now hides behind a new mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte – as well as Ben Franklin – while he races against time to defuse a plot of historical proportions. (Rated PG)
Cast: Andrew Cheney (Seasons of Grey), Kara Killmer (Chicago Fire), John Rhys-Davies (Return to the Hiding Place), Ade M’Cormack (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Adam Madlane, Samrat Chakrabarti (The Waiting City) , Tom Mahard (Gran Torino), John Arden McClure  and Rich Swingle (Indescribable). Produced by Aaron Burns. Directed by Chad Burns. Written by Paul McCusker with Stephen Kendrick.

Review: John Ritter look-alike Andrew Cheney is well cast and sympathetic as Will Reynolds, a former assassin who, seeking escape from his past, is now on the run from Charles Kemp, his former employer (John Rhys-Davies), the nefarious owner of the British East India Company. Will soon finds himself ironically assuming the identity of a pastor, killed during an attempt on his life, and falling in love with Charlotte, a good-hearted parishioner who (slight spoiler alert since its revealed relatively early in the movie) ends up being Kemp’s niece. Will’s flight then takes him to the America where he befriends Benjamin Franklin (Adam Madlane) and ends up seeking his redemption as the Highwayman, basically America’s first masked superhero.

The Highwayman becomes a champion of freedom-loving colonists seeking independence from England. But things really heat up when Kemp — whose business interests do not align with the colonists — shows up with Charlotte at his side.  Kemp’s aim is to cause enough violence in the colonies so that the people’s desire for law and order will overwhelm their desire for independence. Will’s aim is to thwart Kemp and win the heart of Charlotte.

Beyond the Mask has its flaws in logic (or, at least making its logic completely clear to me) and its numerous action scenes are staged with varying degrees of believability but it is, overall, an entertaining faith-themed adventure suitable for the whole family. It’s subtle-but-clear positive faith message — that redemption is an unearned gift freely given by a loving God — organically flows from the story which climaxes in a sort of Batman-meets-The Wild, West West confrontation between Will and Kemp.

Actually, Beyond the Mask most reminds me Zorro — which, back in the day, made for a pretty good TV series starring Guy Williams. In fact, I’d suggest the Burns brothers consider repackaging Beyond the Mask as a TV pilot. There are lots of potential parables to be told via the exploits of the Highwayman.

As for the film, it all may not make total sense in terms of its plot but it’s fun and has heart.  Beyond the Mask is Recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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