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The Body

Films attempting to deal thoughtfully and constructively with religious issues usually face a troubling paradox. On one hand, religious groups bemoan Hollywood's amorality and reluctance to deal with spiritual issues. But filmmakers who deviate from strict doctrine while attempting to meaningfully address faith—Martin Scorsese, for instance—are invariably branded as heretics. Perhaps to escape this catch-22, writer-director Jonas McCord's The Body looks at faith in such a muddled, convoluted manner that it's likely to confuse even its most vigilant would-be critics. The direct-to-video debut of the increasingly questionable Antonio Banderas casts the aging Spanish hunk as a studly soldier-turned-priest sent by the Vatican to Jerusalem to investigate a cadaver that may be Jesus Christ. Assisted by sassy Jewish archeologist Olivia Williams, Banderas attempts to ascertain the truth about the body's origins and keep his enigmatic superiors at bay while dodging a swarm of warring factions, each with an opposing agenda and an unsavory plan for the remains. Although it's more solidly constructed and less didactic than the recent swarm of overtly Christian action movies (The Omega Code, Tribulation, Left Behind: The Movie), The Body attempts a similarly jarring mixture of action-movie mayhem and religious drama. With its high production values, duplicitous characters, and barely comprehensible intrigue, The Body resembles a flaky international thriller in which clergymen and major religions have replaced nefarious double agents and rogue nations. At least McCord is an equal-opportunity offender: Nearly every religion and faction is presented as duplicitous at best, and evil at worst. Weighted down by gratuitous subplots and devoid of suspense, The Body attempts to explore the conflict between faith and reason, but is betrayed by a Byzantine plot that's too cluttered to allow for anything resembling substance.


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