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Movie Review

The Grace Card

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Christian Drama
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2011
USA Release:
September 23, 2010 (festival)
October 5, 2010 (limited)
February 25, 2011 (wide)
DVD: August 16, 2011
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films

death

angry with God

rebuilding relationships

healing deep emotional wounds

sin

extending and receiving God’s grace

God’s love

repentance

redemption

forgiveness of sin

goodness

goodness of God

faith

truth

Racism

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Is there an actual place called “Hell”? Answer

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Featuring: Michael Joiner—Bill “Mac” McDonald
Mike Higgenbottom—Sam Wright (as Michael Higgenbottom)
Louis Gossett Jr.—George Wright
Cindy Hodge—Dr. Vines
more »
Director: David G. Evans
Producer: Timothy D. Brown—associate producer
Lynn Holmes—executive producer
Howard Klausner—producer
John Nasraway—producer
John R. Saunders—producer
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films

“Witness the power of forgiveness”

“The Grace Card” is about a man (Mac) who became a police officer after his 5-year-old son was hit by a fleeing African-American drug dealer. Mac (comedian/actor Michael Joiner) blames himself for the accident that happened in his own neighborhood. Thinking he might prevent such a travesty from happening to another family became a motivation for his joining the force, but his unresolved feelings only complicate his new career. Misguided emotions cause him to lash out at his wife and his second son, over the years, creating a crisis of alienation that comes to full fruition in the film.

The setting begins when Mac is teamed up with an African-American officer named Sam (newcomer Michael Higgenbottom), who happens to pastor a church part-time, as well. To add fuel to Mac’s fire, Sam gets a promotion to sergeant—skipping right past Mac—who’d already been recently overlooked for advancement.

Sam consults his grandfather (Louis Gossett Jr.) for advice on his own quest for the right path in his life—to make a difference—be it pastor or police officer. Enter the delicate fabric of serendipity—like only God can weave into life in order “to work out all things for good” (Romans 8:28).

With that setup, the themes become obvious, but they are not limited to “race issues” in the Deep South. Instead, they go much deeper, and include race, redemption, forgiveness, family, poverty, life, and death. The film is ambitious, and some may argue handles too much, but, just like the recent script from “To Save a Life,” the screenplay (nicely done by Howard A. Klausner, “Space Cowboys”) integrates them all with relative ease.

Samuel Goldwyn Co. has been a strong backer for faith-based films (“Fireproof” / “To Save a Life”), and they didn’t disappoint with their distribution of this weekend’s “The Grace Card,” another Christian indie seemingly destined to join the ranks of “Facing the Giants,” with its impressive opening weekend box office—entering the top 20 of all time for a Christian film—and in the top 15 films competing in the secular market this Oscar® weekend of 2011.

“For it is by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) is what truly stands out in this film, in ways that you don’t anticipate. In reflection upon this year’s past films during this Oscar® Eve, I recall the line and theme from “The King’s Speech,” “I have a voice,” which had a powerful punch, or the gritty determination of the young Mattie in “True Grit” seeking justice for her father’s murderer, with biblical determination—both strong films. But I can honestly say that it’s a simple film like this one which can often become a world changer for the believer. These are the kinds of films we long to see, even if they don’t have a multi-million dollar budget. “The Grace Card” has a lot of true grit, and it definitely has a voice.

Content for concern

THE GRACE CARD has some raw CSI-cop-show type scenes including some intense violence, racism and drug references, similar to those in “The Blind Side,” or perhaps a Tyler Perry film. There are some police chase scenes, involving criminals, where weapons are drawn and fearful situations surface. A few of those scenes involve blood and have intense action that earn the PG-13 rating. As to sexual situations or nudity, there are none, except the upper torso of Mac’s teenage son in an ambulance.

I counted one “for God’s sakes,” and two casual uses of “Oh Lord,” but there was no cussing or any obscenities—even in scenes where it could easily have been inserted. The bad language doesn’t have to be there—and it isn’t. That is refreshing.

The direction falls short, at times, with some awkward cuts and scene changes, but, overall, it passes the test. The film is a strong entry for first time director Dr. David Evans, who formed Graceworks Pictures and partnered with Calvary church to produce this work of love. There is a strong supporting cast, many of them volunteers from the local Memphis-area Calvary church, and although the film is formula and predictable, to the point of suspending disbelief beyond the norm, it still works.

Final thoughts and spiritual application

“I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same, and be your friend always” is the statement that becomes the Grace Card. Where this comes from, and how it’s played out in the film, is for you to find out. Although it has a slow and somewhat choppy beginning (acceptable for a first-time director), it leads to one of the more remarkable and emotional endings I’ve seen in a film in a long time—Christian or secular! It is heartfelt and believable, and one that has a lot of staying power. If we as believers are willing to use “the grace card” and not “the race card” (race as a “catch all” for anything we disagree with), more of the world might possibly hear the message of the gospel—one of forgiveness and love—that invites every sinner to repentance, and to freely receive the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

“City on Our Knees” (Toby Mack), one of the many great songs used in the film soundtrack, has the following lyric:

Tonight’s the night, for the sinners and the saints—two worlds collide in a beautiful display. It’s all love tonight.

In the movie “The Grace Card,” two worlds do collide in Memphis, TN in a beautiful display of God’s love. It will move you deeply, and challenge you spiritually. If you don’t leave the theater in repentance for some past-harbored-resentments, or better yet, with a desire to go out into the world and extend “The Grace Card” to someone who needs it in your daily life, you may want to examine yourself, and see if you are still in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

I urge mature (only) Christian audiences everywhere to see this film! Put it out on your social networks, not just as a tacit acknowledgement to Samuel Goldwyn Co. for distributing it (which we should), or as an act of appreciation to the dedicated group of our brothers and sisters in Christ who made the film (which we should also), but more importantly, that the Holy Spirit might cause those of us he desires to see the film, to grow—ever more deeply—in the understanding of grace.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Oh Wow!!!… With all the *trash* out there on the big screens—available 24/7—along comes a GOOD, truly memorable movie worth watching!! This one’s a keeper!! Had a HUGE impact on us. If you have no feeling while watching this movie, will have to wonder if you’re even alive ~ wink!

Certain deep emotional scenes had both my husband and me welling up in tears! Okay, well to be perfectly honest, I cried on and off through the entire 2nd half of it. Had I not found tissue, I would have been snorting into my winter scarf. smile… This will be one I’ll be recommending to everyone I know!

I will say that there were only 2 things that bothered me about it: “the forgiveness” episode inside the church was awesome—however, was it grace thru' faith IN CHRIST?? I’d have to watch it again; I honestly don’t recall Jesus' Name being mentioned, and He is the ONLY way to salvation, to heaven period.

The other thing that was bothersome was, later in the movie, when the main character is ~once again~ reliving the sadness of losing his son, and he’s bawling, the speaker in the foreground talks about hell possibly being a place of being ALONE for all eternity. And though most of the world fails to recognize or believe it, Scripture says that hell will be so much more than that; it is an actual place of constant torment where no one gets a break from it day or night. We may not (from our human way of thinking) understand why God chooses this method, but even so, it’s not ours for the understanding, only trusting what Scripture says ~ that it is true. I pray that no reader of this review will choose to go there.

Salvation comes by repentance towards God AND belief in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21) Jesus Himself says repentance is required; and by choosing to turn from one’s ways, whether of being bad (“sinful”) or by trying to be “good enough” on one’s own terms (if that could be done then Jesus would never have had to die!) So after repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus, both given freely by God, then the free gift of salvation can begin.

Great movie! Thank you, Mr. Goldwyn!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—RJ, age 52 (USA)
Positive—This movie was pretty good, as far as Christian films go. For me, what put it a bar below Sherwood Pictures was that there weren’t really any breaks from the drama. The Kendrick brothers always have two or three hilarious scenes to keep things from getting too depressing. But, I liked this one, too, for the most part.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kadie Jo, age 19 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This movie could work as an evangelistic one: the setting, the music, and dialogues. I was moved by many scenes (the performances were very good). However, the story line seems extremely forced. Too many coincidences… everything fell in the right place. Too good to be true! The Bible teaches us that the events in the Christian walk are orchestrated by God, but not necessarily with happy endings, as we want. I would be surprised if someone says that this movie is based on real events. I would suggest for future productions to leave open endings. Allow the viewers to decide the culmination of some topics based on their own experiences, unless the story is based on real events. Watch out about portraying a God that make everything works pretty well when we decide to follow Jesus. This sound like “prosperity gospel” to me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—R. Ariel, age 46 (USA)
Negative
Negative—My wife and I just watched this movie. We appreciate that there are more and more movies being made that portray a biblical world view. This was the only redeeming aspect of this movie. We found the acting/directing to be beyond sub standard. There were several times throughout the movie that we didn’t know whether to groan or to laugh, due to poorly delivered lines or bad writing. Rather than feeling like I connected with the characters, I just wanted it to hurry up and finish, so I could see if it got any better. If you do decide to watch this film, just please don’t invite any unbelieving friends over. What could be a positive representation of Christianity will (sadly) only further propel the idea that Christianity and quality art never mix.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Andy, age 32 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Actually a very good movie. I was not a fan of movies such as “Facing the Giants” do to the sappy story, bad acting, and poor presentation of the Christian life. “The Grace Card,” however, does much better in the sense that it doesn’t throw everything completely in your face, and is something that non Christians can enjoy too. I will note though I was not impressed with the soundtrack.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Michael, age 17 (USA)