1 ½ stars (out of 4)
Contrary to the similar title, "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" isn't a sequel to the Coens' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Instead, it's a TV-movie-caliber polemic based on preacher T.D. Jakes' best-selling seminar, novel and stage play of the same name. In this incarnation, Kimberly Elise stars as Michelle Jordan, a former drug addict who tells her tragic story to Jakes (who plays himself) while she sits on death row.
Jakes was one of the masterminds behind Mega Fest, the headline-grabbing religious festival held last summer. And as he preaches on screen, it's easy to be drawn into his magnetic presence. In Michelle's cell, he makes himself small and sympathetic, proving his range as an actor as well.
But a craftsman of fine drama, he is not. Jakes' characters are points to be made, flesh and blood cautionary tales that don't particularly feel human. His dialogue, even in the mouths of Michelle and her troubled mother, sounds as if it comes straight from the pulpit.
Director Michael Schultz of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" fame (or infamy) knits Jakes' revival sessions seamlessly into the movie, flashing between the bishop's fiery, pacing delivery and Michelle's interaction in his congregation.
But technical adeptness can't save "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" from being much more than a vanity project, written by and starring Jakes. His heart is in the right place, but you can almost see it up there hogging the center of the screen, mugging for screen time.
"Woman, Thou Art Loosed"
Directed by Michael Schultz; screenplay by Stan Foster, based on the novel by T.D. Jakes; photographed by Reinhart `Rayteam' Peschke; music by Paul D. Austerberry; edited by Billy Fox; produced by Reuben Cannon. A Magnolia Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:39. Not rated, but contains scenes of gun violence and sexual assault of a child.
Michelle Jordan - Kimberly Elise
Cassie - Loretta Devine
Twana - Debbi Morgan
Todd - Michael Boatman
Reggie - Clifton Powell
Himself - T.D. Jakes