1½ stars (out of four)
"End of the Spear" is a production of Every Tribe Entertainment, an independent studio whose mission is to "create quality entertainment for a broad audience that inspires hope through truth." If this does not set off alarm bells in your head, consider the film's opening voiceover, which warns that peace will only come when we change our hearts. (In other words, accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.)
That "End of the Spear" is a no-holds-barred Christian movie is not necessarily a bad thing, just something to consider when you're surfing Fandango.
What is necessarily a bad thing is that "End of the Spear" is a childish and visually repetitive movie, ham-fisted, proselytizing and overtly simplified.
Set in the Ecuadorian rainforest (and filmed in Panama), "Spear" is the "true story" of the Waodani tribe, a native people whose violence has left them at the brink of extinction. Led by an angry young warrior, Mincayani (New Yorker Louie Leonardo), the Waodani fight because they think they must to survive.
But the white folk know better, and in the mid-1950s a group of young American missionaries set out to make contact with and save the disappearing tribe. If attacked, these men of God intend to lay down their arms, with group leader Nate Saint (Chad Allen) telling his son Steve, "We can't shoot the Waodani. They're not ready for heaven--we are."
Indigenous men with spears, 1; Pacifists, 0.
Picking up where their slain husbands left off, the missionary wives travel to the jungle to spread the word, gaining safe entry by bringing along Dayumae (Christine Souza), a Waodani woman who fled the tribe years earlier.
The language barrier is a large part of the drama here, but unfortunately it's expressed through stilted dialogue and wooden performances. The most genuine expression comes from the land, which director Jim Hanon and cinematographer Robert Driskell capture beautifully at first with overhead, sweeping shots of the lush forest and river. But after the 12th such shot with the same overbearing orchestral music, it all starts to feel like stock video from a "Visit Panama" ad.
With Dayumae back in her tribe and the white women administering Western medicine and healing, a love fest soon ensues, with Mincayani reluctant but other Waodani, particularly old softie Kimo, (Jack Guzman) seeing the light and the way. Spears are dropped, illnesses cured, enemies forgiven.
As Rita Cosby would say, "It's a miracle!"
"End of the Spear" was developed with the help of the real-life Steve Saint, so it's no wonder that the film all comes down to him (as an adult also played by Allen). Grown up and faced again with the Waodani's violent past, Steve can either forgive Mincayani for the death of his father or hold hate and fear in his heart forever.
What would Jesus do?
`The End of the Spear'
Directed by Jim Hanon; written by Bart Gavigan, Jim Hanon, Bill Ewing; photographed by Robert A. Driskell; edited by Miles Hanon; production designed by Clarence L. Major; music by Ronald Owen; produced by Bill Ewing, Mart Green, Tom Newman and Bart Gavigan. An Every Tribe Entertainment release; opens Friday at the AMC River East 21, Canterra 30, Randhurst 16 and AMC South Barrington theaters. Running time: 1:52. MPAA rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence).
Mincayani - Louie Leonardo
Nate Saint/Steve Saint - Chad Allen
Kimo - Jack Guzman
Dayumae - Christine SouzaCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times