For my review of the previous film, click the following link: UNBROKEN (2014)
Ugh, two faith-based movies in a freakin’ row, man. If my mind doesn’t shatter into a million pieces, then I’m going to slap on a cap and cowl because I’ll be declaring myself an invincible superhero.
Not gonna lie, of all the movies that got a sequel, I’m staggered that it’s this one. One would think that the story of a man who survived being a prisoner of war wouldn’t need a sequel. I mean, it’s not like the dude became a prisoner of war again in a bigger and worse concentration camp (I assume). But I guess when a man is mentioned to have had a spiritual journey and became a born-again Christian, I suppose it shouldn’t come as a shock that the leading conveyor belt of strong-armed religious schlock, Pure Flix, would make a movie about it. Anything to get their sermons out into theaters, eh?
The story looks like it’s about Louis Zamperini home from his traumatic turn as a POW and is struggling with his faith and memories, haunted by the man who tortured him, falling in love with a woman, and possibly even picking up running again.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Samuel Hunt (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming SWIPE LEFT ), Merritt Patterson (PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF  and 2 episodes of KYLE XY [2006 – 2009]), Gary Cole (BLOCKERS  and THE BRONZE ), Bob Gunton (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION ), and David Sakurai (1 episode of IRON FIST [2017 – ongoing], and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Harold Cronk, known for GOD BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD (2018). Co-writing the screenplay are Richard Friedenberg (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of) and Ken Hixon (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming FINDING STEVE MCQUEEN ). Composing the score, we have Brandon Roberts, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming UNDERWATER (2019). The cinematographer is Zoran Popovic, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming BREAKTHROUGH (2019). Finally, the editor is Amy McGrath, known for 5 episodes of CASTLE (2009 – 2016).
Overall, I think this… might be okay. At a glance, the movie doesn’t look like it’s going to be very preachy. At least, not to the audience. Just in the context of their respective scenes, but I’m taking that assumption with a grain of salt. I will always have a problem with religious films, so I know I’m not going to like this. Here’s to hoping that it’s not a frustrating sit-through.
This is my honest opinion of: UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION
Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) has returned home from being a prisoner of war in Japan and is trying to adjust. However, he’s taken up a bad habit in drinking. When this gets in the way of him promoting the purchases of war bonds, Louis is told to take a vacation in Miami, Florida, where he not only reunites with old friends, but meets the beautiful and religious Cynthia (Merritt Paterson), whom he marries not long after. Their happy marriage doesn’t last forever as Louis continues to struggle with both his PTSD, seeing Watanabe, “The Bird” (David Sakurai) in his nightmares, as well as his increasingly terrible drinking problem.
So… basically, it’s A CAST FOR CHRIST (2017), but far more tolerable sprinkled with a little hilarious bat-shit insanity. Yeah, this may take some explaining.
The obvious part of my previous statement that everyone’s going to take away from is that I call this movie a little hilarious bat-shit insane. Well, there are those elements, particularly in the dream sequences that Louis has about The Bird. These sequences are terrifying, but not in a way that always fits the tone of the movie. There’s a bit where Louis and Cynthia are at the cinemas and Louis has a PTSD moment where The Bird comes out of the movie. I damn near crapped myself, but it’s closer to something that you would find in a horror-movie, and a bad one at that, than in this born-again religious film. And yes, I know, war can be a horror tale in of itself, but… save this kind of scary imagery for the actual horror and war films, not a religious film. Most of the nightmare scenes are on this level of intense silliness that I have to admit, they’re ironically the most interesting and most well-done moments. One of Louis’ first nightmares is when he’s napping on the couch and suddenly the hardwood floors start bleeding water like an open vein. As hilariously bad as they’re got, the set pieces themselves can be pretty good. It’s rare, but give a movie a little bit of credit when it deserves it, right? Even if it is a back-handed compliment.
Also, I’d be lying if I thought the acting was… the worst. Okay, because of the constipation-bound cheese that’s laced in the scenes and writing, I have to say that Hunt does have his occasional charm and occasionally makes his scenes work. Sure, some of it is overacting, but he’s surprisingly passable when the scene calls for him to be serious. But I think the best actor in this movie, hands down, is Patterson. Her portrayal of Cynthia was arguably the best part of the movie and the best character. For once, a Christian woman who isn’t afraid to mention “divorce” in one of these movies. Pure Flix must be learning a few lessons. She has her limits, even as a religious woman, and isn’t afraid to tell her husband that he’s royally screwing up and threatens to leave him. I applaud characters like this in these movies.
Sadly, before anyone thinks that this entire review is about praises and thumbs in their upward positions, release that breath you’re holding because… no, it’s not a good movie.
I applaud the message of forgiveness, and in a better written film, would be powerful. However, like many of these born-again movies, it’s pretty spontaneous and doesn’t segue very well into this awakening. I can’t believe that even the most devout of believers had a sudden change of heart. It’s a gradual process being surrounded by people who push you in that direction until you finally give it a chance and completely surrender to the good word. This isn’t Louis’ spiritual journey. He goes to a church gathering a few times, or many times during a montage, and in the span of just a few minutes, he drops to his knees seeing that proverbial light. This annoys the crap out of me. Awakenings like this need time to develop so non-believers that may be watching can see the struggles of a whole different mind-set being shifted, the struggles of maintaining that new outlook, and just how important it is to that individual. But we don’t get that. We get exactly how a bad transition in a movie like this would go: instantaneous with very little heart.
On top of all that, Louis is written like he blames God for all of his misgivings. He blames God for his injury that prevents him from ever running again. Even though there’s science and physical proof of what’s wrong with him right in front of him. I hate characters that blame God for their problems instead of admitting to themselves that sometimes a bad situation is just a bad situation. It’s not God’s fault, it’s not his fault, it’s just bad luck. I can’t attest if the real Zamperini really did blame God for his problems, but I have to assume that it wasn’t as dramatic as this.
Overall, no, this is not a good movie. It’s not the worst religious film I’ve seen, but it’s got all the hallmarks of what a bad religious movie has. Dumb characters, bad Italian accents, bad green screen effects, and fairly soulless preachy moments as well. I applaud the movie for not butchering the message of forgiveness, the actors for their efforts, as well as the well-done dream sequences, even if they are comical in how terrifying they are. As a recommendation, the religious won’t care about my opinion and will likely see this movie anyway. As for the rest of us, nah, pass. There’s nothing here for y’all.
My honest rating for UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION: a weak 3/5
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