J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Better Place: Your Sins will be Transferred

Jeremy Rollins is like a Biblical Wolverine. He does not merely heal quickly. All the physical damage inflicted upon him will be mysteriously transferred to the person his attacker loves best. Naturally, his [over] protective mother kept him sequestered and home schooled for vague reasons of X-Men style anti-mutant fear and prejudice, but frankly that never really makes sense. Regardless, Rollins will have to face his corrupt small town on his own after her premature demise in Dennis Ho’s A Better Place (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and VOD, from Monarch Home Entertainment.

As one might expect, Rollins is somewhat socially awkward, considering he has hardly had any interaction with anyone besides his mother. Yet somehow, Ned Bower, the boorish Sheriff’s son is just itching to bully him as soon as he steps out of the house. Fortunately, Jess the cute diner waitress intercedes on his behalf. She too has a rotten home life, which gives them something in common to bond over.

When Sheriff Bower is not reining in his son and intimidating Rollins, he does the dirty work of Sam Abram, the town’s banker, who is even more gleeful repossessing homes than Old Man Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. In fact, he enjoys it so much, he has Bower frame-up vulnerable home-owners to expedite the process. Perhaps they also helped Ms. Rollins along with her heart attack.

There are clear Christian themes sprinkled throughout Better Place, but it is considerably less in-your-face than most Evangelical films. Unfortunately, it all comes out in the off-key, highly unsatisfying climax. For the most part, the cast is also more professional grade, particularly William Knight (the English dub voice of Danzo Shimura in the Naruto franchise) as Abram (so it’s a pity his character is such a cliché).

It is also fun to watch Tonya Kay vamp it up as Abram’s gold-digging trophy fiancée. Cult horror star Maria Olsen lends the film further credibility, but unfortunately she is largely wasted as Jess’s belligerent drunken mother Rita. As for the kids, they are rather a mixed bag. Mary Ann Raemisch shows some poise and presence as Jess, but Stephen Todt’s Rollins mainly just gives us surface awkwardness, with no sense of anything going on inside.

Compared to the average Kirk Cameron movie, Better Place is quite subtle and accomplished, but that is grading on a generous curve. When it comes to the actual viewing experience, the sluggish pacing cannot be ignored. It earns some credit, but it is still hard to recommend A Better Place when it releases today on DVD from Monarch Home Entertainment.

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