"For Greater Glory" is a meandering, malnourished epic of a forgotten Mexican civil war, the one after the Mexican revolution that made Pancho Villa famous. This period piece, partly financed by the Catholic Knights of Columbus, is about the Cristeros War, when Catholic priests and peasants took up arms againstMexico's revolutionary government's efforts to repress the Catholic Church.
It's an arch, preachy and violent movie aimed at the faithful, people who won't grimace or roll their eyes at every character who declares, "God save us from these heathens!"
A coalition of church officials and reactionaries left over from the losing side of the recent civil war rebels. They call themselves "Cristeros," and the revolt rages off and on for years. Priests such as Father "General" Vega (
But as the revolt roils the country, the Cristeros see they need a leader. They turn to a frankly agnostic hero of the Mexican revolution, General Gorostieta (
Visual effects specialist-turned-director Dean Wright, working from a Michael Love ("Gaby: A True Story") script, manages the combat scenes — raids on villages, trains — well enough. But he has no sense of pace and has a hard time keeping the various factions distinct. And if he can't keep them straight, what hope do we have? The film lurches between firefights and arguments over the dinner table as Garcia's Gorostieta mulls over the offer to lead the Cristeros. He still cuts a fine figure on a horse, but it's a generally dispassionate turn, not helped by the confusion surrounding Garcia's performance.
Any movie set in a civil war or revolution is going to take sides, and like the Opus Dei-backed "There Be Dragons," set during the Spanish Civil War, this one certainly has. Faced with movies from "Blue Like Jazz," with its "Abstinence makes the Church grow fondlers" bumper stickers, and
If you're tackling a subject this complex, you need to be more careful. You need to aim higher in hiring behind-the-camera talent. If you're making a movie aimed at people of a particular faith, you might want to cut it below an R rating. And if you're going to attempt an epic, you need to spend more money than this.
'For Greater Glory' -- 1 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for war violence and some disturbing images)
Running time: 2:23