June 10, 2012
Writer Michael Love and director Dean Wright, try their hand in depicting the historically important, but often historically disregarded (not taught in high school) Cristeros War; and, all things considered, fail miserably.
With a star studded cast, including Andy Garcia (Oc... ean's Twelve), Oscar Isaac (Sucker Punch), Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Bruce Greenwood, Ruben Blades (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and (last and very least) the unwatchable Eva Longoria, and source material that is so historically rich, it is a shame that "For Greater Glory" isn't treated like anything more than a corny, melodramatic, telenovella.
Plot: Between 1926 and 1929 Mexico was in the midst of the Cristeros War; a war where the people of Mexico fought for religious freedom against the atheistic government. This film attempts to chronicle the rise of the Cristeros, as well as the leader, Eruque Giristueta Velarde (Garcia) during this time.
Side Note: So while I understand that this film is geared towards the Americanized Mexican communities, I'll say it now, the filmmakers made a huge mistake not making a film about a historical era in post war Mexico, concerning Mexican citizens, set in Mexico, in Spanish. The Mexican-American accents used in this film are a joke, and only work to demean the source material.
More problems with this film: The first hour of "For Greater Glory" is simply dull and underwhelming, filled with every verbal one-liner in the book. Lines such as: "What are you if you don't stand up for what you believe in" riddle the screen like bullet holes from a cliché machine gun. These instances of faulty dialogue do nothing more than make the characters on screen seem so unrealistic and cartoonish during the portions of the film where all of the characters and relationships should be becoming established; therefore, in the later (better) half of the film, these under-established relationships and hollow characters struggle to find sympathy with any audience not totally invested in the plot going into the movie. And even with its slightly better second half, "For Greater Glory" is still filled with moments that while start off with very intriguing potential, are time and time again dragged back down by a far too simplistic dialogue. Where this story goes in the final twenty minutes (of this two hour and twenty-three minute film) and the exceptional acting of Isaac and Blades, are the only things that actually save "For Greater Glory", from being an utter slap in the face to the Mexican/Mexican-American people.
I will say this; I do commend the filmmakers for not holding back on the realistic violence throughout. Don't let my telenovella remark fool you. As verbally inept at this film is, visually "For Greater Glory" violently earns its R rating, in a non-gratuitous fashion...now, back to the bad stuff.
The Acting: As I had made mention of before, both Oscar Issac, who plays Vitoriano 'El Catorce' Ramirez, a Cristero soldier, and Ruben Blades, who plays President Plutarco Elias Calles with such a ferociousness, that he quickly becomes a villain you love to hate, are exceptional in this film. But other than those two, everyone else here is either subpar or God-awful; I'm talking about you Eva Longoria. And, aside from the cringe inducing facial expressions that sum up Longoria's acting abilities, Garcia undoubtedly is the largest disappointment this film has to offer. As a very questionable lead here, Garcia is made to give countless spirited Braveheart-esque speeches, but is astonishingly unconvincing in any of them. Furthermore, since this is an American production, and the filmmakers have the actors speaking in that very stereotypical Latin-American English, for being born in Cuba, Garcia has the hardest time sticking with the required accent; instead slipping back into his Alec Baldwin-esque (New York) accent.
Final Thought: It would be sacrilegious for me to recommend "For Greater Glory" to anyone, even if they were a fan of watered down history lessons. Bottom line, although I should have, this film never allowed me to truly care about any of these brave men, women and children depicted in this movie; and that is simply a result of sloppy filmmaking. If you want to get a more extensive, more entertaining, and all around better version of this powerful story, my suggestion would be to skip "For Greater Glory" and go read a book.
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