THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

(2004)
With Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Claudia Gerini, Maia Morgenstern
Directed by Mel Gibson
Reviewed by JB

     According to the almost unprecedented year-long prerelease chatter in the mainstream media, you would have thought Mel Gibson's film about the final hours of Christ was going to cause riots in the street and bloodshed everywhere.  Without even seeing the film, they branded it as anti-Semitic.

     Once they saw the film, and still hoping for those riots to prove their point, many critics used torturous logic as to why THE PASSION was anti-Semitic.  After not a single riot broke out in America over the film, the media and critics began to worry that THE PASSION was too violent. Don't bring the kids!  Don't bring the dog!  Don't bring yourselves!  This from some people who considered such extremely violent films as KILL BILL and PULP FICTION to be cinematic works of art.  (Albeit they may be, PULP FICTION especially - but then again, so is this film).

    What idiocy.  I went to see THE PASSION as an act of protest against the mainstream media, especially The New York Times, which had attacked this particular film with a fervor I had never seen before. I figured if The Times didn't want me to see this film, there had to be something good about it.  I came out of THE PASSION almost literally too weak to walk home. 

     THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is an emotionally overwhelming film, beautifully shot, beautifully acted, beautifully directed.  The extreme violence of Christ's torture and death is displayed without reservation, and may be too much for some viewers, but, unlike much of the violence found in Hollywood films, it has a point far more important than "Hey, kids, look at the cool blood!".  No other film has ever depicted Christ's pain and suffering in such graphic detail, and while some may see it as gratuitous, others see the graphic violence as essential to the film. 

     Hollywood was so fearful of this film, no major studio would touch it.  So Mel Gibson financed it himself.  After all the negative publicity, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was a box-office and cultural phenomenon.  By the end of 2004, it had outgrossed every film of 2004 that wasn't named SHREK 2 and SPIDERMAN 2.  It didn't hurt that the year of negative publicity firmly made the public very curious about it.

     True to form, once Hollywood saw that there was a large Christian audience willing to spend oodles of cash on a movie that was respectful to their beliefs, it cranked out film after film marketed directly to this audience.  Oh, wait.  No it didn't.  But I hear they did consider doing the next direct to video AMERICAN PIE sequel in Aramaic. - JB

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