When Pastor Alex Kendrick read a report back in 2003 alleging that movies had become more of an influence on impressionable young minds than the church, he decided to do something about it. He and his brother, Stephen, co-founded Sherwood Pictures in order to make their own faith-based films.
Operating on a modest budget under the aegis of the Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Ga., the Christian-themed studio has produced a trio of well-received, inspirational morality plays, most notably, Fireproof, which grossed over $30 million at the box-office alone.
A bona fide Renaissance Man, Kendrick not only writes and directs each feature, but stars in them as well. Plus, he is the author of several best-selling novels, including “The Love Dare,” a New York Times No. 1 Best Seller which remained on the list for 115 weeks while selling more than 3 million copies.
“Courageous,” Kendrick’s latest cinematic offering, is an alternately action-oriented and thought-provoking adventure which thoroughly entertains while ever so subtly issuing a clarion call for a cultural rededication to traditional family values. The story specifically telescopes tightly on the trials and tribulations faced by a quartet of colleagues serving on the Albany Police Force.
We witness an endearing male bonding among the four at work as they cultivate the trust necessary to know a buddy will have your back when apprehending perpetrators in dangerous situations. However, an entirely different type of camaraderie is called for after hours as they try to unwind from the stresses of the day in the company of their wives and children.
It is that struggle to juggle career and fatherhood which sits at the heart of Courageous, a sobering parable designed to make men reflect on what’s most important in life. And to varying degrees, each of the picture’s protagonists proves to be a flawed individual.
First, there’s Officer Adam Mitchell (Kendrick), who’s been chided by his wife, Victoria (Renee Jewell), for not devoting enough quality time to their kids. He can’t catch a break, between missing daughter Emily’s (Lauren Etchells) dance recitals and declining son Dylan’s (Rusty Martin) repeated offers to run a 5K race together.
Then we have Adam’s partner, Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes), who behaves more like a pal than a dad to his 12 year old, perhaps because he was left emotionally wounded by his own parents’ divorce. Consequently, he’s taken to filling that hole in his soul in an inappropriate manner.
The third officer is Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), an eight-year vet from Atlanta who has just moved his family back to his hometown to raise his kids in a city with a slower pace. He never even met his own father until he was 37, so foremost among his issues is figuring out how to parent a flattered 15-year-old (Taylor Hutcherson) whose head is being turned by a 17-year-old (Donald Howze) gang member with his own car.
Finally, there’s Nathan’s young partner, David Thomson (Ben Davies), a deadbeat dad who is in denial about the existence of a 4-year-old daughter born out-of-wedlock.
Each of the aforementioned predicaments eventually boils over into a crisis leading to a moment of truth. But no matter the issue, again and again the question seems to return to whether one is ready to summon up the requisite amalgam of courage, faith and resolve to be a man.
A moving, modern parable not to be missed by anyone who’s always wondering why they don’t make wholesome movies with uplifting messages anymore.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and drug use.
Running time: 129 minutes
Distributor: Tri Star Pictures / Affirm Films