*1/2 (out of four)
During “For Greater Glory,” I truly feared for how long I had been in the theater. Three hours? A day and a half? Afterwards, I was genuinely surprised to see the same story on the RedEye cover as when I entered the theater.
The 140-minute film absolutely has merit, focusing on the period in Mexico from 1926-’29 when an army formed to fight for the Catholic church, taking on a government that suspended holy services and hung priests in their churches for disobeying. Andy Garcia plays Enrique, hired to lead the resistance despite his lack of religious devotion. “I believe in what you would be fighting for,” says his wife Tulita (Eva Longoria, in a nothing role). A comment like that from a woman like that can be very persuasive.
Then seemingly every scene features a speech or a conversation that repeats the central conflict without deepening anyone’s commitment to their faith or their policies. The battles unfold as competently shot, ordinary fights, despite the presence of a stubborn rebel (Oscar Isaac) whose bad attitude just begs to be whipped into shape by Enrique’s leadership.
Imagery of bodies hanging from telegraph lines makes an impact, of course, as does the notion that a small group of extremists often does not represent the beliefs of the masses. Except this punishing, earnest melodrama also offers one-sided support of martyrdom and characters most differentiated by the appearance of their mustache.
What really doesn’t make an impact is a very out-of-place Peter O’Toole as a priest, bellowing “Muchachos!” as he’s hit in the head with fruit, and an awkwardly funny montage in which a man’s life flashes before his eyes. That sort of incompetence can turn even violent truth into a joke.
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