Taking It to the Streets

  Most "critically acclaimed" films these days are on the cultural cutting-edge, promoting a secular worldview, and usually full of vulgarity and obscenity. By contrast, there are explicitly Christian films. But, all too often they lack cinematic quality. It's about time someone did something about that. Well, someone has. Providence Entertainment, in concert with Signal Hill Pictures, is trying to escape the Christian filmmaking ghetto, and their new film, Mercy Streets, is a great illustration of how to bring a Christian worldview into culture. Mercy Streets begins with John, the main character, leaving prison. The guard escorting him snorts, "You'll be back!" And when John's partner in crime, named Rome, drives up with a dead body in the trunk, there's little doubt that he will. But prison made an impression on John and he wants to "go straight." But that takes money, so John agrees to join Rome for one last con-job. The plot thickens thereafter when John tries to double-cross Rome. John wants to escape but has nowhere to turn. Until, that is, he tracks down his long lost twin brother, Jeremiah, who thought John was killed in an accident long ago. John impersonates Jeremiah, who is to be ordained an Episcopal priest. Well, you probably guessed where this is all headed. Rome mistakenly grabs the twin, Jeremiah. And when he discovers that he has the wrong brother, he coerces him into helping him by threatening to frame John for murder. There's a lot more drama to follow, but we discover that both brothers have a lot to learn about forgiveness and redemption, and Mercy Streets makes those lessons clear. So is there a market for films like Mercy Streets? You bet there is. In 1999, I told you about another film produced by Providence, The Joyriders, and it enjoyed great success in theaters. Another of their films, The Omega Code, was a nationwide hit. What I appreciate most about this film and the work being done by Providence, is that it's comparable with what Hollywood is producing -- technically speaking. Too often, Christian films lack subtlety and professionalism. But Mercy Streets has a talented cast, a good plot, and rich characterization. The sound track, featuring hip artists like Moby, is cool and current, reinforcing the very redemptive story line. The gospel message comes through clearly because it is interwoven throughout the story. Mercy Streets follows in the footsteps of storytellers like C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Flannery O'Connor, and John Grisham. C. S. Lewis once wrote that we need, not more Christian writers, but more good writers who are Christians. That's because, no matter how good the ideas are, if they're told poorly, nobody will want to hear them. But we don't need just a handful of films like Mercy Streets -- we need hundreds. And we don't just need films. We need people who can bring the richness of the Christian worldview into every sphere of the culture. This is especially important when it comes to story- telling, because stories capture people's imaginations. A real page-turner can convey the Christian message more effectively than a dry theological treatise. And that's why we have to learn to tell our story so that Americans can hear it. And that's what Mercy Streets does. It's a film you'll want to see, and take your neighbors!


Chuck Colson


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