Sundance First Look: SALVATION BOULEVARD

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
December 31st, 2010

The last time George Ratliff brought a film to the Sundance Film Festival, it was the well-received buyer title, JOSHUA, in 2007. Now he is back with SALVATION BOULEVARD, an adaptation of the Larry Beinhart novel of the same name.

Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marisa Tomei, Ed Harris (those four actors have combined for 9 Oscar nominations and 3 wins for those of you scoring along at home), Pierce Brosnan, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Jim Gaffigan star in this film that combines a murder whodunit with religious fanaticism.

After reading the film's synopsis, I have to ask, is it odd to anyone else that the synopsis nominates the film for cult-comedy status when it has not been released yet? Have they abandoned hopes for mainstream success or is this a play off of the religious cult within the film?

Official Synopsis:

Reverend Dan is a charismatic preacher who has captivated a city with his charm. Ex-deadhead and recovering hippie Carl is one of the loyal sheep in his flock. When an antique firearms accident does in an atheistic novelist and Dan’s controversial antagonist, Carl is called into service in the most unconventional way. The megachurch is cast into shadow, and a hellish storm begins brewing that could jeopardize its entire existence. The road to hell—in this case, Salvation Boulevard—is paved with good intentions—gone hysterically wrong.
This material is perfectly suited for George Ratliff, who directed the award-winning documentary Hell House and the 2007 Sundance Film Festival hit Joshua. Down to every detail, you feel you are in capable hands. In a situation ripe with possibilities, the gloriously talented cast push their performances to the limit, spiraling this film toward instant cult-comedy status. In Salvation Boulevard, Ratliff peels back the onion to take a satirical look at Christian fanaticism—one guilty pleasure at a time.

To elaborate on that vague plot description, an atheist professor is killed and a Muslim student is arrested for it. Former Deadhead, recovering alcoholic, and born again Christian, Carl Vanderveer, is assigned to investigate the murder charge against the student. However, pressure from within his megachurch- as well as from his wife- force him to ask a lot of questions about what is really going on.

Kinnear will play Vanderveer and Brosnan gets the lucky assignment of Reverend Dan. I say lucky because actors historically get to let themselves go wild when they play an animated preacher (for further evidence see: Steve Martin in LEAP OF FAITH, Robert Duvall in THE APOSTLE, Paul Dano in THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and Marcia Gay Harden in THE MIST). All actors relish the chance to have a part where hamming it up is completely necessary.

It will be interesting to see if the writer/director, Ratliff, can pull off this John Grishman-esque story with comedic undertones and religious overtones.

Sources: Sundance, Ion Cinema

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