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"REDEEMING LOVE"
(2022) (Abigail Cowen, Tom Lewis) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Believing it's God's will, a mid-19th century farmer plans to free a prostitute from her line of work and marry her.
PLOT:

It's the mid-1800s and Angel (ABIGAIL COWEN) is the most in-demand prostitute working for the Duchess (FAMKE JANSSEN) in the gold-mining town of Paradise. Having been forced into prostitution at a young age by Duke (ERIC DANE) following her mother's death, Angel's services result in long lines of men waiting their turn with her. Not among them -- at least in the carnal sense -- is Michael Hosea (TOM LEWIS), a farmer who works and lives twenty miles outside of town. A highly religious man, Michael has asked God to grant him a woman to share his life with, and it's love at first sight when he first lays eyes on Angel.

Notwithstanding her line of work and how that contrasts with his lifestyle and beliefs, Michael believes he's destined to marry Angel, something he tells her after paying just to talk to her. Having been taken advantage of her entire life and with a low opinion of God based on her bad luck and current circumstance, Angel laughs him off, but he persists.

When things go badly at the brothel for her, Michael rescues her by paying off her debt and takes her back to his farm. She still wants nothing to do with him, and things become more complicated when Michael's late sister's husband, Paul (LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN) -- who owns land next to Michael -- returns home after trying his hand at mining gold. And the stakes are raised even higher when Duke reenters the picture, still upset about Angel fleeing his house of ill repute many years ago across the country.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

Faith-based films have come a long way since their early, clunky, decidedly amateurish, and preaching directly and only to the church choir beginnings. Nowadays, many of them are highly polished and slick-looking productions with good acting and more subtle ways of delivering the good news and getting the message across.

That said, and notwithstanding the so-called "torture porn" of "The Passion of the Christ," I never imagined we'd see what's essentially R-rated material in such a film. And yet that's arrived this week in the form of "Redeeming Love," the cinematic adaptation of Francine Rivers' 1991, faith-based novel of the same name.

Granted, the Bible and other works of that ilk have their share of decidedly adult-based material including murder, treachery, slavery, and yes, even prostitution. Rivers used some of those in her book that was a slightly more modern retelling of the old Hebrew biblical tale of the prophet Hosea who married the harlot Gomer and loved her despite her profession and later adulterous ways.

Set in the era of California's gold rush more than a century and a half ago, and beginning with Shakespeare's quote about things that are glittery not necessarily being gold, it's the tale of Angel (Abigail Cowen), a woman forced into prostitution at a young age and is now the favored harlot of the mining town of Paradise.

So much so that the madam of the brothel, the Duchess (Famke Janssen), holds a lottery to see who gets in on a limited basis after paying their entry fee and then waiting in a long line outside. Good guy farmer Michael Hosea isn't one of them, at least not initially and not for the same carnal reasons.

You see, he's a religious man, and while in the local church he asks God for someone to share his life with. He then goes outside, spots Angel, and has a bit of heavenly love at first sight, divine intervention longings. So much so that he's willing to overlook her moral shortcomings and current vocation.

She, of course, having been beaten down by the universe and accepting her given lot in life, doesn't take his abrupt and earnest "I'm here to save you" marriage proposal seriously. Yet, he perseveres, and eventually gets her back to his farm some twenty miles outside of the town.

As they like to say, you can take the girl out of Paradise, but you can't take the paradise out of the girl. Or something along those lines. And then along comes Michael's widowed brother-in-law, Paul (Logan Marshall-Green), who recognizes her from said location, and later, Duke (Eric Dane), the powerful pimp Angel escaped from years ago on the East Coast.

Cue the dramatic music and related drama involving hookers doing their thing, men beating up women, people murdered, and -- just for good measure, child prostitution. My, how faith-based films have suddenly grown up.

Yes, this offering from director D.J. Caruso -- from a screenplay he co-wrote with Rivers -- has an undeniable ick factor that pervades every inch of it and I'm sorry, but I just never bought into the religious farmer accepting the extreme sinner, including what she does after they marry.

Yeah, yeah, I know, there's that old Hebrew Bible tale, but it just doesn't cut it in today's day and age, even if those are presented as mid-19th century settings. And for that, "Redeeming Love" scores just a 4 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed January 19, 2022 / Posted January 21, 2022


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