DIFF Review…Salvation Boulevard

There’s quite an A-List ensemble cast in this indie film from IFC and you’ll find that the laughs to be had are about as big as the stars themselves. Salvation Boulevard is directed and written by George Ratliff and is based on Larry Beinhart’s book of the same name. In the film Pierce Brosnan plays Dan Day, Pastor of a mega-church who is planning to build an entire community for the followers of his mega-parish The Church of the Third Millennium. But after he accidentally shoots a highly regarded atheist author (Ed Harris) after their debate on religion, the plans for his mega-city could soon turn to dust.

Salvation Boulevard is a clever satire of religion that is dark, witty and hysterical to boot. In the film, Greg Kinnear plays Carl, one of Pastor Dan’s most poster worthy converted sheep who left behind a foggy life as a “Dead Head”. But, as Pastor Dan is not about to let his planned community crumble, he throws Carl under the bus and characters as zany as you’d find in Cannonball Run (mostly in the form of his friends and family) pop out from every corner.

There’s a wonderful parity/parallel of how Carl, the ex-Dead Head, has left a life devoted to Jerry Garcia and now devotes himself to Jesus Christ. Kinnear takes center stage as he tries to clear his name, avoid his crazy wife and protect his daughter from all the madness. Beyond that, Brosnan is cast perfect and does fantastic in this unlikely role. Dan is about as Evangelical as James Brown is a show stopper and completely full of himself making it all the more fun to watch Brosnan take to bible thumping. His performance almost makes you forget he was once the legendary 007.

The film finds its feet early and grabs you with the quirky story, the dark tones and layered plot. Things are slowly revealed and to the film’s benefit, the story establishes and maintains some mystery. Also the way the characters change in light of the events is particularly enjoyable. Dan goes a little mad after the shooting and starts misinterpreting things way more spiritually than they actually are. Carl’s wife Gwen (played by Jennifer Connelly) goes hysterically and wildly off the handle with each proceeding scene. There’s also some funny turns from the rest of the cast including Marisa Tomei as another ex-Dead Head who is now a campus security guard.

It’s cohesive, even and very funny. The middle of the film is not necessarily pointless but just takes a little while to bring all the pieces together and that does play into the mystery a bit. Salvation Boulevard doesn’t say a lot about a man’s faith but more how faith in anything can make someone (or people in general) crazy. If you find yourself in stitches as you question the sanity of those around you, you’ve probably arrived at Salvation Boulevard. Hope you enjoy your stay!

Click this link for more info and films in the 2011 Dallas International Film Festival.