Salvation Boulevard preaches to the choir

In Cinemas The film takes potshots at easy targets rather than trying to make a more insightful film about the abuse of religion and cult of personality.

Isabelle Fuhrman, left, and Jennifer Connelly in Salvation Boulevard. IFC
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Director: George Ratliff
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei

When popular pastor Dan Day (Pierce Brosnan) gets himself into a pickle by killing an atheist intellectual (Ed Harris) during a debate, he tries to make it look like a suicide before pinning the blame on Carl (Greg Kinnear) a sometime Grateful Dead fan and none-too-bright member of his congregation.

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Director/screenwriter George Ratliff embraces debacle with the gusto of a born-again zealot, and the farcical plot spins out of control with murder attempts, blackmail and all manner of temptation. Based on a book by Larry Beinhart, the range of characters includes a Mexican property developer (Yul Vazquez), a married artist (Jennifer Connelly) tempted by the pastor, a sceptical teenager (Isabelle Fuhrman), a retired navy officer (Ciaran Hinds) and in the most ambitious piece of casting, Marisa Tomei as a security guard.

As these characters clash, a predictable degree of mayhem ensues. Yet the result is disappointing. Ratliff has pedigree when it comes to making amusing, insightful films about religion - for example, the 2001 documentary Hell House. So it's a surprise that Salvation Boulevard simply takes potshots at easy targets rather than trying to make a more interesting and winning film about the abuse of religion and the cult of personality.

The devout behaviour of the congregation is predictably zany but the jokes soon wear thin and have a familiar bent, and the anti-fundamentalist tone often feels like preaching to the choir.