A Netflix Finds Review
During the 1990s, several once A-list actors took to the indie circuit. They lent their incredible star power to budding studios. These films were never going to be box office smashes. They'd have limited releases. But they were mostly quality films that hit on topics that you just couldn't ignore. One of the greatest actors from the 20th century is unquestionably Robert Duvall.
Spending most of the 70s with Coppola, De Niro, and Pacino, life after The Godfather and Apocalypse Now for Duvall saw it's ups and downs. Despite being in 14 films in the 1980s, only The Natural and possibly Lonesome Dove come to mind as being anything memorable. The 90s saw Duvall's star power rise with films like Days of Thunder and the underrated Falling Down.The Apostle was a child of his own almost, he wrote the script in the 80s and pined for over a decade for some studio to back it but it just wasn't happening. Finally in 1997, Duvall took it upon himself to write, direct, and produce this highly controversial film.
Duvall plays Sonny, a very charismatic Pentecostal preacher from Texas, who flees his after bludgeoning his wife's lover with a baseball bat during a Little League game. Already a polarizing figure in the town, Sonny erases his identity and ends up in Louisiana where he finagles his way into being a pastor for a local church and also contributing to the local radio station.
It draws some major comparisons to Robert Mitchum's Night of the Hunter definitely - without so much sinister intent of course; Sonny is truly blind to the horrible things he's done. He's conflicted internally because of his desire to do good, but cannot comprehend the fact that other people do not believe the same way. Sound familiar? Hopefully it does, because that's the kind of world we live in today. The Apostle is not written with the intent of chastising or blaming anyone of strong faith. Duvall's pen only hopes to inspire a less hateful, less clouded view of life. The topical subject has materialized into numerous films over the years, and there are far better one's to illustrate this point more so than The Apostle. However, Duvall's passionate performance resonates the most from it.
He's never been one to give in to the new wave of film. Duvall's managed a respectable career, with very few misfires, and even fewer questionable roles. What is so intriguing about Duvall is his desire to still challenge after being in film for almost 60 years. Sonny is everything we love and hate about religion. A man so passionate, but yet so ignorant that you can't help but feel respect and resentment at the same time. He justifies his actions constantly with the Bible in hand, and stands at the pulpit shouting "halleluiah" and "thou shalt not kill" despite his own misdoings. Duvall's dedication to this film is even more inspiring. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor (losing to Jack Nicholson in one of the closest races for Best Actor ever), Duvall would follow The Apostle with Deep Impact and A Civil Action - two films at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's a testament to his incredible acting ability, but sadly films that would overshadow his magnetic performance in The Apostle. Very few actors could attempt something so daring, and it's without a doubt one of Duvall's greatest films in a stellar career.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and a related scene of violence.
Director: Robert Duvall
Writer: Robert Duvall
Cast: Robert Duvall; Farrah Fawcett; Billy Bob Thornton; June Carter Cash; Miranda Richardson
Memorable Movie Quote: "I may be on the devil's hit-list, but I'm on God's mailing list."
Tagline: The hardest soul to save was his own.
Distributor: New Films International
Theatrical Release Date: January 30, 1998
Link to Netflix: The Apostle
Plot Synopsis: After his happy life spins out of control, a preacher from Texas changes his name, goes to Louisiana and starts preaching on the radio.