“Redeeming Love” is a cross between a Christian film, a soft romance and a demented exploitation film. It might sound like an intriguing combination, but the genres don’t go well together and make for an entertaining castaway. In addition to my many complaints about this movie, it’s worth remembering that it’s a poorly paced slog that doesn’t have to take up 134 minutes of your time. Really, it doesn’t have to take a minute of your time, let alone 134.
Set in the California Gold Rush of the mid-19and century, the film follows “Angel” (Abigail Cowan) as she is rescued from a life of prostitution by humble farmer Michael (Tom Lewis). I’ll start with him. He is a character who can only exist as the protagonist of a work of fiction. Certainly, there are plenty of men in the real world who are kind, compassionate, respectful, generous, patient, and refuse to take advantage of women even though they have ample opportunity to do so. But he’s a guy who pays a prostitute double just to flirt. “Angel” runs away from him at least three times during the movie, and the official reason is that she thinks he’s too good to be true or that she’s not worthy of him, but I suspect that ‘on an unofficial level she sees he’s perfect and perfect is boring.
Moving on to “Angel”, she’s lived a tragic life and she’s not ready for a sharp turn to healthiness. And this movie likes to revel in the tragedy of that life. Several scenes show “Angel” being beaten, raped, and otherwise abused, dating back to her childhood. There’s even a particularly sick touch reminiscent of “Oldboy.” I know there’s an argument to be made that we need to see the dark so it means more when she finally sees the light but this movie has been so dark for so long that the light barely registers when she come.
Speaking of ‘the light’ this movie is based on a story from the bible but it has to be one of those gross movies for hardcore scholars and not the kind that shows up in Sunday services for the general public – the kind that shows up in those internet articles with titles like “The 5 Craziest Stories You’ll Never Hear (Straight Out of the Bible)”. The film has Christian-based financial support, and while I can’t say it’s only paying lip service to the Christian market in order to gain that support (looking at you, “American Underdog” ), it could certainly do a lot more to be palatable to its target audience of people who want something more uplifting.
A huge pet peeve for me is when movies censor themselves just enough to get a PG-13 rating instead of the R the subject warrants. “Redeeming Love” is one of the most egregious examples of this practice I have ever seen. It’s not just that there’s sex and violence in this film, but it’s a heinous brand of sex and violence. But the hair is long enough to cover the necessary body parts, and the camera cuts out the extended shots so we just hear punching and crying. In the current ridiculous system, that makes the movie clean enough to play in front of the same audience as Marvel movies. I’ll spare it an F grade because it does a pretty decent job recreating the period, but it’s the most unpleasant moment I’ve had in movies in years.
“Redeeming Love” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, partial nudity, and strong violent content. Its operating time is 134 minutes.