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Isaac H. Eaton
From an early age, Leroy Jenkins is called by a mysterious force he knows only as 'The Spirit'. Abandoned by his Cherokee mother and scorned as 'half-injun', Leroy is raised poor by a rural South Carolina family. Strange voices and supernatural occurrences haunt his early life and he runs from them until the age of 22 when a freak accident - or something more brings him close to death and finally to an Atlanta tent revival where he is miraculously healed. Transformed through faith and endowed with the power to heal others through The Spirit, Leroy begins his career as an evangelist and quickly builds one of the largest ministries in America, befriending the likes of Mae West and soon becoming a celebrity himself. He rocks the establishment as he sings the gospel like Elvis, takes wardrobe tips from Liberace and violently lashes out at anyone who doubts or opposes him, including the government. As he gets wealthier and more flamboyant, Leroy makes many enemies and many mistakes and he ... Written by
Credulous movie made for credulous people about a self-deluded con-man
Damian Chapa is not a bad filmmaker. He'll never make the big leagues, but he can at least cut something resembling a coherent movie together.
The problem is his subject matter.
Take what you will from the glassy-eyed converts and apologists who've reviewed the film her before me. I mean, they've BEEN to Leroy's tent shows, and they've SEEN those miracles, so THEREFORE, LeRoy's the real deal. Preaching to the choir, don't you think?
LeRoy, like ALL other miracle worker, will never allow his conjuring tricks to be independently verified, and even if he did, religion gives him and his sad, deluded followers and easy out: if you're skeptical, or you just don't believe in the miracles, then YOU don't have strong enough faith. YOU are the problem. YOU don't believe in God. This is why these FRAUD artists continue to thrive after many of them were long ago exposed as frauds; there's always people out there who FEAR. They need liberation from that FEAR. Miracles make the liberation "offered" by CON MEN like LeRoy all the more convincing to the credulous FOLLOWERS who have been taught, for most if not all of their lives, to work toward their big reward in the afterlife. That involves study and repeated RE-interpretation of ancient texts for modern times for which they were not written, adherence to arcane rituals, near-constant reenforcement of received "wisdom" and plain and simple FEAR of not attaining the afterlife. Failure IS an option, because we're all human after all, but some people are DESPERATE to be good little lambs to they can get into heaven. That's where LeRoy and his kind come in, especially when there are old and sick people to be fleeced out of money that would be better offered to non-religious charities, or to that "evil" medical profession that ACTUALLY HEALS PEOPLE. LeRoy Jenkins ONLY heals people who have convinced THEMSELVES that he needs healing.
You can't be a member of an evangelist's congregation and truly know the tricks he's playing on you. But work behind the scenes, where they tip off the preacher to the gullible marks in the audience and then count up all the dough backstage, and you'll see what it's really about.
Damian Chapa must have been in the congregation.
He bought the dog and pony show hook, line and sinker. And now he's transferred it to film, and he's proved as credulous in his writing and directing as LeRoy's audiences are at the healer's performances.
This is a film made and sold to the choir as it were. I found it in the junk bin at a local Hollywood video store (where it was TRADED IN, never rented) for $3 and simply HAD to pick it up, as I get a real kick out of bizarre religious films and the people who both make and watch them. THE CALLING is no better than ridiculous Cloud Ten drive-in schlock like LEFT BEHIND and TRIBULATION FORCE and that other piece of junk with Jeff Fahey. Hell, MOST of the actors in these things DON"T actually believe the scenarios they're acting out - they just need a paycheck because the mainstream won't hire them anymore (dig deep and you'll find plenty of interviews attesting to this). In other words, Damian Chapa can look forward to a career alternating between telemovies for TBN and straight-to-video Latino productions with which he's become associated. Sad. He wasn't a bad actor before he started wearing his faith on his sleeve.
Dunaway's horrid in this. She's not playing Mae West. She's playing a Mae West impersonator, while the casting of Brad Dourif as the infamous shyster A. A. Allen is almost perverse in its ingenuity. Dourif's not bad, but you can almost taste Dourif's desire to play the character as the scumbag he was in real life. And of course, there's the plentiful scenes of miracles and healings, recreated via modest special effects and camera trickery, EXACTLY the kind LeRoy uses in real life! Score one for Damian on that count.
At least TWO of the three reviewers at IMDb as I write this, have NO OTHER REVIEWS on the entire site. The third is obviously a fan-girl who has at least seen a few other Damian Chapa films, but thinks he should be nominated for most of them.
Believe who you want. Believe WHAT you want. But ask yourself why people like LeRoy, and his loyal trained seals like Damian don't WANT to allow any outsiders and "non-believers" to properly investigate the joyous magic they've experienced. To them, of course it would prove nothing, since they BELIEEEEEVE in things that don't NEED to be proved. Any attempt to disprove the magic is an affront to LeRoy and therefore and affront to God. Amen, brother!
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