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“Persecuted”

Image Courtesy of One Media LLC

David Ives - published on 07/23/14

This is a low budget B-movie through and through.

It takes a special kind of movie to get a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The site, which aggregates reviews from many of the country’s top publications, can be notoriously hard on films. In the past few weeks alone a number of major releases have been savaged by the collective pens of the nation’s critics. The Melissa McCarthy vehicle Tammy received only a 23% approval rating, Cameron Diaz’s Sex Tape came in at 20%, and the monstrously successful Transformers: Age of Extinction garnered only a meager 17% favorable rating from critics.

But a 0% rating? Those are so rare, you can usually count a year’s worth on your fingers and have a few digits left over when you’re done.

Persecuted, the new faith-based film which hit theaters this past weekend, has now joined the illustrious ranks of those movies deemed awful enough to receive 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. That means every single reviewer on the site has found Persecuted to be as irredeemably rotten as films such as Jaws: The Revenge and Leprechaun 4: In Space. Rare company indeed.

So just what is it about Persecuted that has earned it a place of such dubious distinction? Well, part of it, if we’re to be honest, is the actual quality of the film itself. The movie is written and directed by David Lusko, whose only prior non-documentary feature length credit to date is the 2013 sci-fi disaster flick 500 MPH Storm, a straight-to-video effort released by The Asylum. If you don’t know The Asylum by name, those are the same folks who brought us films like Sharknado and Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, so that should give you an idea of the level of craftsmanship on display in Persecuted. The filmmaking is serviceable, but nothing really above what you could find in a Lifetime or Hallmark Channel production. In short, Persecuted is a low budget B-movie through and through.

Still, that alone doesn’t seem like enough to justify a 0% rating. Maybe it’s the story itself. The plot of the film is a simple one. Sometime in the near future, the United States government intends to pass a law restricting certain forms of religious speech, an act vehemently opposed by a Billy Graham-style televangelist named John Luther. Fearing the bill will not pass without Luther’s support, Senator Donald Harrison arranges for the preacher to be framed for the rape and murder of a young prostitute. The rest of the movie follows Luther as he tries to avoid the authorities until he and his father, a Catholic priest, can somehow locate evidence of his innocence. Basically, it’s The Fugitive with some politics and Christianity thrown into the mix.

Again, honesty demands that we acknowledge some of the obvious problems in the writing. To begin with, there’s the name John Luther. It’s kind of like making a film about a fictional president and naming him Abraham Washington. It just comes off as silly. Then there’s the fact that. Luther is supposedly the subject of a nationwide manhunt, yet he seems able to wander in and out of places with impunity as the story demands. And what about the questionable notion that in this day and age the opinion of a single Protestant minister has the power to make or break a piece of federal legislation? Finally, why does Luther and a couple of Catholic priests appear to be the only people in the country to be upset over a law limiting religious freedom? Where are all the other faithful Christians, Jews, Muslims, you name it?

Perhaps silliest of all, however, is the proposed law itself which drives the events in Persecuted. Entitled "The Faith & Fairness Act," this legislation would essentially require all religious institutions in the country to refrain from criticizing other religions. It would also require all religious institutions to allow representatives from other religions equal time to speak from their pulpits so that congregations would hear all sides of an issue. Somehow, if enforced, this legally enforced religious pluralism would magically end terrorism on the entire planet. Yeah, even with the idiocy sometimes displayed by our elected leaders, it’s pretty hard to imagine a bill like this ever seeing the light of day.

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