In late 2019, a Christian film was made set in a dystopian present where American society collapses in wake of massive violent protests that the government is unable (or unwilling) to handle. And I thought, this could either be on the nose or ahead of its time. The Reliant is about the collapse of the US dollar, but the details of the situation are left intentionally vague, as the story follows one family’s efforts to survive. I will not spoil this movie. But this movie is kind of like a cross between Red Dawn and M Night Shyamalan’s Signs. Red Dawn explores moral issues surrounding war which I’ll talk about later, while Signs explores God’s providence.
The story begins with a man bringing his daughter, Faith, into the hospital as she has been injured. Kevin Sorbo is the doctor working while his wife is in labor. Sensing that the man is inebriated, which caused the apparent car accident Faith was in. He calls security on the father and the situation escalates. It would turn out the man would not see his daughter again.
The story fast forwards 7 years and we are celebrating Kevin Sorbo’s eldest son Jimmy’s 21st birthday. His eldest daughter Sophie is triggered that Kevin Sorbo has given Jimmy a rifle alluding to the death of Jimmy’s twin sister. Sophie is engaged to Adam and is supposed to get married in a little over a month. Anarchy breaks out very early in the film, the characters assume that they had more time before violence in the cities comes to their neighborhood. And when chaos erupts, the man in the beginning who lost his daughter in the beginning would use this as an opportunity to take revenge on Kevin Sorbo and his family. So he recruits his buddies and shows up at their house. And the family is forced to flee into the woods.
From there, they wrestle with the feeling of abandonment by God, the appropriate use of force as a Christian, forgiveness, and how no one is too far gone for God. These are interesting ideas to tackle in a story, but how The Reliant does so is a bit of a mixed bag.
On the issue of self-defense, we start off with a Christian family that partakes in the 2nd Amendment and prepares for the worst. Sophie uses the John Piper argument that a Christian cannot use lethal force in self-defense, and the movie’s messaging is that there are justified uses of lethal force. However, the movie faces a situation similar to Red Dawn where the main characters deliberate over executing someone they’ve captured that’s committed murder. The messaging of the movie is rather confusing. On one hand using force in self-defense is justified, but the movie seems to argue that executing murderers is not, even though the characters make a practical self-defense argument in favor of execution. The message that I gather is that The Reliant is trying to say that we do not have the authority to execute murderers in wake of societal collapse and that people can change no matter what they’ve done so execution is not just. Contrast this with Red Dawn that shows us we must carry out swift justice no matter how difficult. The Reliant does well to argue against John Piper’s self defense theology but does not formulate a coherent view on the use of force by Christians.
In tackling Christian teachings about forgiveness, The Reliant does well to maintain orthodoxy, and we see characters apply Christian teaching on forgiveness under extreme circumstances with each other and the villains that are after them. And perhaps it speaks more about “Christian films” as a genre, but they do a classic conversion at the end. And I must wonder, are Christian movies like romance movies where audiences have this expectation?
What this movie does well is it has decent fight sequences that are thrilling. Comparable secular movies like The Purge have awful action scenes because the viewer cannot see them. So I believe that is the best thing about the movie. Like some of the characters are pulling off Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and stuff. And I’m here for that.
But when the intensity slows down the characters argue about faith, and these parts get especially cringey. The sisters quote only well-known Bible verses in their dialog like fortune cookies. But I think this might have been intentionally cringey because the script does not make these arguments come off as convincing. Instead, applying Christian teaching in action is what ultimately drives character development.
My biggest problems with this movie were with the writing and the production. It’s hard to take this movie seriously when the girls all have their makeup done and the men are cleanshaven. This film didn’t have the ambition to correct that, despite its willingness to venture out into rarely traveled territory for Christian movies. The cast of this film is incredibly small and unrealistic. The rule that implied death is no death at all is followed to a T, and no explanation is provided as to how characters survive after we last see them in the hands of their captures. That being said, the film does provide an element of uncertainty as not all of the protagonists survive, but it undermines itself in this regard.
The movie’s ending is a mix between Signs and Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. The Reliant was a risky attempt to bring more action into faith-based films, but I do not think it was a good movie by its own merit. And unfortunately this movie does not have the luxury of being a shiny object that causes people to turn their brains off to its numerous flaws. However, I do hope that this film does have a lasting impact as it’s preferable to watching War Room or Courageous. This is the direction, I think Christian films should go in however, I think that certain expectations of the genre should be left behind. The Reliant was entertaining but deeply flawed on various fronts.
Be Prepared For The Times
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