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Friday, August 9, 2013

The Imposter (movie review)

I just finished watching a movie called The Imposter which stars Kevin Max of DC Talk/Newsboys fame, Kerry Livgren of Kansas fame, and Jeff Deyo of Sonicflood fame. I actually liked it quite a bit more than I thought I would! I wrote a pretty detailed review of it for Flixster, and I thought I would reproduce it here. If you are interested in finding out more about the movie, you can visit the official Web site at, buy it on, or just watch it on Netflix like I did.

Here's my Flixster review:
For a movie that telegraphs its ending almost from the first lines, this movie is TOTALLY unexpected. A Christian rock star who takes the "rock star" much more seriously than the "Christian" winds up losing everything he has - and DOESN'T get it back at the end. It's not a candy-coated ending, but it smacks of reality. To live the oh-so-perfect Christian-movie ending would be unhealthy for all involved, so the characters choose a wiser route. It's a strategy that more Christians need to be aware of. As the character named "Prof" says in the movie, "You can pull out the nails, but you've still got to deal with the holes."

This is an indie movie, and it feels like an indie movie. Not like a BAD indie movie... just like a film shot on a small budget with a lot of imagination and love. That said, it does not look cheaply done; it's well-executed technically. The acting is surprisingly good, especially considering that the three male leads (Kevin Max, Kerry Livgren, and Jeff Deyo) are not professional actors but are actual Christian rock stars. Each of them is totally believable in his role. The music video segments look great, even though as a non-movie-musical-fan I do think they can tend to distract from the story a little bit. I wasn't that enthusiastic about them, but admittedly, they fit the story and they fit the movie genre, so I can't complain too much.

A great deal of thought was put into the story. I do think the first half (the rock star spirals down into a mess of his own making) feels a little bit trite, kind of "already seen this movie" -ish, but once Johnny (the rock star, played by Max) hits rock bottom (or at least he thinks he has), suddenly the whole film begins to feel more real. Or maybe it's just that Johnny is coming back to reality, so his whole world begins to come into focus. There are lots of twists and turns along the way; for example, there is a conversation between Johnny C. and a pastor, who turns out to be a more important person to Johnny than we think, and who reveals some secrets about himself that partially explain Johnny's behavior. The conversation starts out seeming like a counseling session, but winds up being something completely different. There is someone who starts out seeming like a weird background character, a hobo complete with stolen shopping cart and duct-taped bug zapper, who winds up being central to Johnny's realization that he needs to make a serious change.

So there are a lot of surprises, and the biggest surprise may be this: although there is a scene where the message of Christian salvation is discussed, there is no "Johnny at the altar" scene. In fact, we never specifically see Johnny have a traditional "salvation experience", even when the closing credits roll. It's left ambiguous, and maybe that's because we never actually do know the condition of someone's heart. Even someone who publicly proclaims the Faith, like a pastor or a Christian rock star. So how can we really know what's in Johnny C.'s heart? We can't! But we can see the fruit of it by watching his actions, and his actions at the end imply that he truly has experienced a real change.

Life is ambiguous sometimes, and so is this movie. If you like films that have satisfying endings but do not feel the need to wrap up all of the threads (Johnny actually mentions some of the dangling plot lines in his narration at the end), this one is for you. If you would be devastated to find out that Christian rock stars are sometimes a mess in their personal lives, maybe this movie isn't for you... or maybe it is. Because rock stars of any stripe are still human beings, and they can hurt others and they can make mistakes. That's what this movie is about: when you've hurt others and messed everything up, there's still Jesus. He might not make everything perfect in one fell swoop, but He will be there with you through the process of healing what you've hurt and fixing what you've broken.

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