“The Grace Card” is one of a new breed of Christian movies. Encouraged by the popularity of the 2008 film “Fireproof,” a steady stream of movies aimed at Christian audiences has emerged. I was amazed to see the trailers for inspirational Christian movies that played before “The Grace Card.” There certainly seems to be an audience for inspirational Christian movies.
“The Grace Card” was filmed in Memphis with some local churches taking an active part in funding the movie. The film tells the story of Mac, a white police officer, whose 5-year-old son is tragically killed by a car speeding away from a crime scene. Mac goes from being a happy husband and father to one who is bitter and angry. He takes his anger out on his wife, Sara, and his other son, Blake, who can never measure up to his deceased brother.
Because of his attitude, Mac is passed up for a promotion, which goes instead to a black officer, Sam, who is also a preacher on the weekends at a small church. On the assumption that Mac could benefit from Sam’s positive attitude, their supervisor assigns them as partners. Mac becomes even angrier. He resists Sam as his partner, believing that Sam received the promotion only because he is black. The situation at Mac’s home deteriorates as Blake hangs out with the wrong crowd, and learns that he will not graduate. Sara tries to encourage Mac to receive counseling, but he refuses.
“The Grace Card” is well-intentioned, but is hindered in its message by its heavy-handed storytelling and unbelievable plot twists. For example, why is Mac allowed to disregard standard police policy again and again without being disciplined? The main characters are one-dimensional. Until the final moments of the movie, Mac has no redeeming qualities. He hates himself and everyone else he comes in contact with. Sam, on the other hand, is too good to be true. He is a wonderful father and husband, even if he is not a very good preacher. But he’s learning!
When tragedy strikes Mac’s family a second time, the plot twists become painfully obvious. When a character needs a kidney transplant, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess who will have a perfect match! Of course, there is a happy ending in a crowded church with lots of smiles and tears. I wondered if the filmmakers were basing the final scene on the famous final scene of the far superior 1984 film, “Places in the Heart.”
Despite its flaws, there are a few moving moments, including an effective scene in which Mac and Sam get down on their knees to pray in a hospital chapel. Actors Michael Joiner as Mac and Michael Higgenbottom as Sam deserve credit for their performances.
My jaw dropped at a line from a major character late in the film that God’s grace was all that was needed. One did not have to pursue justice! Excuse me! I also noticed a line at the beginning when I felt that the sacrament of reconciliation and the need for confession was ridiculed. I wondered if there was a subtle anti-Catholic sentiment expressed by the filmmakers.
“The Grace Card” is not without merit. I applaud the effort of the filmmakers to bring Christian values to the screen. It was also courageous to take on the issue of race. A better script would have helped to deliver the film’s message to a wider audience.
Tom Condon, OP