Jesus Versus The Messiah Review
If your name’s Jay and an email lands in your inbox on Easter Weekend with the subject ‘Jay Claims To Be The Son Of God’, you can be as atheistic as you like, but you’re going to open it.
Instead of confirming what I have long suspected, that I could be a religious nut if I lost my mind, or, at the very least, a bragging deity-in-waiting, this email announced Jesus Versus The Messiah, a micro-budget feature shot in Scotland.
Apparently, the film developed out of a short that writer/director Alan Ronald made about a character called the Messiah, a dark angel on a mission of vengeance.
But while Ronald is to be admired for eking his meagre resources out into a full length production, you wonder whether he might have better employed them tightening up his central premise and making a decent short.
The film’s main problem is a flabby script with clumsy exposition. Jay (Simon Phillips) meets Sally (Gemma Deerfield) in a Paisley bar fight. The two are drawn to each other through a mutual awareness that both are running away from something.
Rather than allow his characters to reveal themselves organically to the audience, Ronald has them engage in a long, clunky exchange of dialogue in Sally’s car, wherein they prove themselves to be less perceptive than even the slowest member of the audience.
Within a couple of minutes, viewers will have ascertained that Sally has a murky past and Jay is Jesus Christ, or at least, believes himself to be. Nevertheless, the pair spend the better part of the film confirming this to each other in tedious, expletitive-heavy bickering that slows the plot agonisingly.
Jay is being hunted by the Messiah (Danny Idollar Junior), moodily dressed in black cowboy garb save for a pair of trainers that undermine his menace throughout. Idollar Junior is fine, but the character has no dimension beyond his desire to crucify Jay, a fate Our Lord apparently escaped 2000 years ago. What ramifications this has had beyond his immediate circumstances are never explored.
Jay eyes up a waitress, as does Sally, suggesting the Son of God has sexual urges and she has lesbian preferences. So what? Having raised these possibilities, Ronald fails to develop them. Would romance have offered Jay an alternative to accepting his destiny? We’ll never know.
The pacing is slow and the shots are routinely static, a result of limited camera equipment no doubt, but it leaves untrained members of the cast blinking like rabbits in the proverbial headlights. Even the action sequences lack tension and excitement, as the sturdily built Messiah simply tosses Jay around like a rag doll, despite an occasional intervention from Sally. Her backstory as a journalist who went undercover as a prostitute seems entirely incidental.
Jesus Versus The Messiah might have been saved if edited to half of its running time and with some character development beyond the vague sense of trust that develops between Jay and Sally. The three leads cerainly have presence.
But this tale of a nondescript mortal who may actually be divine has been depicted so many times that greater stylistic verve or humour is required to give it even niche appeal.
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