Watching Rob Hardy’s “The Gospel” is like being a non-churchgoer sitting through the average church service. We occasionally bob our head to the music, there are a few interesting moments, but through most of it, we sit, one eye forward and the other on our shoelaces, thinking, “Good God, let it be over.”

The film is the typical “loss-of-faith” story. The pastor’s son, David, who’s also head of the church choir and studying to be a minister, walks away from religion when his father shows up at the hospital several minutes after his mother’s death because of church business. The scene, almost touching, becomes groan inducing with a heavy-handed bit of symbolism when the son drops his bible as he runs out of the ward. 

Flashing forward 15 years, the short, average-looking 18-year-old kid has incomprehensibly grown a foot taller and become an ultra-fine pop megastar. The ludicrously transformed singer is forced to confront his issues back home when he receives a phone call informing him that his father is dying.

Daivd, male model/actor Boris Kodjoe (“Brown Sugar”), is the real – and, in fact, the only – reason to see “The Gospel.” His ripped, beautiful shirtless body is the single redeeming factor in an otherwise utterly mediocre film. Truth be told, his performance isn’t particularly interesting, original or compelling. But damn is he pretty.

But it’s not the performances that make the film so hard to sit through. Hardy frequently employs a montage-style editing technique that leaves the viewer bombarded with head-spinning cuts. Recall the “Wedding Crashers” sequence that cuts back and forth between the ceremonies, receptions and after-hours sexual escapades; now imagine watching a full-length film with a third of its action assembled with much the same style. 

This technique is visually disorienting, yes, but more importantly, it works against the director’s purpose in many scenes. Near the beginning, the camera cuts back and forth rapidly between Kodjoe, dancing and singing a song called “Let Me Undress You” on stage, and the screaming fans in the club. The persistent quick-cut scenes often curtail emotionally significant moments and inspire monotony from the overuse of action and diversion.

The liveliest (albeit unnecessarily hectic) scenes in the film are the musical numbers. Even if you hate this movie (see it and you probably will), they won’t be able to stop bebopping in their seats to “I got the sweet, sweet victory of Jesus.” But even their redemptive power can’t overshadow the fact that the movie’s finally scenes are so unabashedly predictable one could leave early and not missing anything. Though every character seems to have a religious revelation in the last five minutes of the film, we walk out unconverted, still lingering on the movie’s only enduring image: Kodjoe, singing in the club, stripping off his shirt.


Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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