Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Grace Card Movie: Review

"A Missed Opportunity."

That was the words my good friend told me as we walked out of the theater after watching the recently released movie, "The Grace Card".

Before I give you my impression of this film I am under no illusion that everyone will like what I have to say. To this day, my review of Fireproof has received more comments than any other post.

My review of this film will only focus on one aspect. I will leave all of the rest up to others but I want to focus on the spirituality of the movie.

Why do this? For several months up to the release of the movie, many ministries and churches said this was a "must see" movie. As the opening weekend approached, I received dozens of e-mails from various sources promoting the movie. I will tell you that I was excited about it. As the Director of a ministry to law enforcement, there was great hope for this film which revolves around two officers in the Memphis Police Department. I opted not to promote the movie until I saw it and I sincerely hoped that I could promote this movie as a wonderful Christian movie.

Sadly, I cannot do that.

I have become cynical through the years when it comes to movies that are promoted as "Christian." While almost all of these movies promote a moral theme and are generally considered good family movies, I almost never see one that presents the Gospel. One exception was the movie Fireproof. In fact, you can see the gospel presented in this movie on the right side of this blog.

Before I begin to speak about The Grace Card, let me first say that I do appreciate everyone that had something to do with this movie. Considered a low budget film ($500,000 to make) and using volunteers from The Calvary Church of the Nazarene in Cordova, Tennessee, this movie was very good. You never get the feeling it was low budget and the plot was interesting and unique. I do recommend that you go see this movie and if your children can handle the adult themes that revolve around police work (police pursuits, shootings, drug deals), I would recommend it for them as well. If you are debating this movie for your kids, it will help to read the review from Focus on the Family first.

With that said, this movie is not a Christian movie. It is a moralistic movie; It is a movie with a very positive theme but it is definitely not a Christian movie.

The Grace Card is touted as a Christian film and is described as intending "to illustrate the everyday opportunities that people have have to rebuild relationships and heal deep wounds by extending and receiving God’s grace."

I would agree that this movie met that description but God's Grace was never explained. In fact, "Jesus" was said in a couple of prayers but you will not get an explanation of who Jesus was from this movie. You are never told that Jesus was God, that He lived a perfect life, that He was crucified on a cross or that He rose from the dead.

I was insulted at one point in the movie when a family prayer to Jesus turned into something that "Ricky Bobby" would say in Talladega Nights. I was pleased to see a more serious prayer to my Lord Jesus Christ by the wife right before she was going to bed but the first prayer was bothersome. I'm sure the "heavy" theme of the movie called for humor at that point, I just wish they wouldn't have done it at the sake of what is a very honored and humbled activity.

"Mac" is the main character and he is a 15 year veteran of the Memphis Police Department. His son was killed 17 years earlier and to say he has problems is an understatement. His wife describes him as "angry" and we get many glimpses of not only that but undertones of racism. Mac is partnered up with a full time officer and part time preacher, soon to be Sergeant Sam Wright.

As I said earlier, the plot is good and as a veteran of a large municipal agency, I enjoyed the police scenes and found much of it to be realistic including the "angry" officer's attitude and problems. The issues discussed in this movie are real and I have no doubt this movie can help others.

One person told me today that this movie will open a door for he and his son to discuss matters of salvation and I agree with that. This movie can open a door but this movie does not present the Gospel or anything about sin and judgment or who Christ is or what Christ can do for sinners. It fails miserably in this area and that is unfortunate.

This movie had scenes of preaching and of one to one discussions and there was plenty of opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. The theme was forgiveness but that theme is not solely owned by Christianity. Many religions discuss this and quite frankly you had to pay close attention to know that Christ was the God being dicussed. If it wasn't for two prayers said in Jesus' name, you simply would not have known that the made up God of any other religion wasn't being used. We simply never get to the character of God in this movie.

At Mac's lowest, his partner tells him that he has "two options.....Curse God and die or quit fighting him."

Mac asks "why would He (God) let two little boys die" as he breaks down crying and his partner said he didn't know. That answer is honest and I appreciate it because many things God does are hidden from us but this was the climax of the movie and I expected something more.

This was the opportunity for the preacher, Christian, Sergeant and partner to share the good news. After all the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). It is rare that God presents these moments in life. A man completely broken and lost. What an opportunity but as my friend said....An opportunity lost.

Instead, Mac says "I'm so sorry God" and his partner simply says "You are forgiven because you asked for it." Of course there is no biblical basis for this. A sinner can ask forgiveness all day long but if they do not "repent and believe" (Mark 1:15) it does no good. They are both then shown going to the alter and praying a prayer that we cannot hear.

It is assumed that Mac is now a converted Christian. His life improves. His son is healed from what was earlier thought to be a gun shot that was going to kill him and the movie ends in church with Mac and his wife on the front row. Happiness is all over their face and Sam is once again preaching but Christ and the Gospel are not proclaimed.

Now we know that while salvation does bring peace we also know that it can bring chaos and trouble. After all, Jesus said that if the world hates you know that he was hated first (John 15:18). Of course there is nothing wrong with showing a "happy" Christian but that is not always the situation.

This review will not be popular among many Christians but I do pray that we ask ourselves a few questions.

Why do we grab on to movies, etc. that serve as good moral lessons but the Gospel is left out?

Why do churches spend thousands of dollars on a movie (or many other things) that would not present the complete Gospel message? A message that God uses to save souls.

First, I do not think that the church involved in this movie meant to do harm and I have no doubt they love Christ and want the best for those seeing The Grace Card. It is difficult for me to understand why so much effort and energy would go into a project and the Gospel is left out? Is that not why we do outreach? Maybe the movie was never made to tell others the Gospel and then I can understand it but I have to only assume that it was since it is labeled a "Christian" film and many ministries are promoting it as such.

Some reading this may say that the movie did have the Gospel in it and to that I would ask you to read the Book of Acts or anywhere else in the Bible. Do you ever see the Gospel being presented as "I'm sorry God" and now you are saved? Trust me, before God saved me I was sorry to Him plenty of times but that in no way meant I was saved.

The most evangelistic part of the entire movie was the closing scene. The movie ends with a dark screen and these words placed on the screen: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;"

That is absolutely true and I so appreciate the film makers placing it at the end of the film. It was simply my hope that during the film that unbelievers would have been told who Jesus was, what He did, why we need Him (sin) and what our response must be to be saved (repent and believe).


fred said...

Thanks I plan on seeing this movie this coming weekend and then passing out tracts to those leaving the movie please pray for us and those we give tracts to and talk to. Fred

Travis Yates said...

Thanks Fred. That is a great idea. While to some my critique may have seem harsh let me say that there is no doubt that the movie is spiritual. You can't leave the theater without thinking about matters of faith so passing out tracts is a great idea. A good gospel tract can take the message of grace in this movie and relate it to the salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ. My issue with the movie is that it was not specific to Jesus Christ and salvation. It can open up an opportunity to speak to others about Christ. I applaud the makers of the movie for that. I am just somewhat perplexed why we see a conversion experience and are not explained as to who the source of that conversion is...Jesus Christ.

MC Williams said...

Travis my brother: As a your friend and a colleague who shares your sense of urgency about sharing the TRUTH of the Gospel (the whole Gospel), you have presented a solid arguement. The movie, perhaps in the editing, did miss an opportunity. I saw it this afternoon and found it to be an emotional ride and I maintain my position that it is a "must-see." That said, might I humbly suggest that we not allow a movie to replace the command our Lord has given US in the Great Commission. My hope is that churches and ministries such the ones given to you and I by God will use this film as a tool to tell "the rest of the story." Love ya Bro!

Travis Yates said...

Mike, I agree with you on this. Maybe I expected too much and maybe, as another friend told me today, that this movie may not have been intended to be evangelistic on it's own. While it is hard to understand why it would not have been after seeing the flow of the movie, I do not pretend to know why those decisions were made. I will repeat what I said in the review. I do recommend that others go see this movie and I do appreciate that it was made.

Deekster56 said...

MC - I totally agreed with your response, and even noted how it was given with such "grace." I recently attended a seminar where Dr Craig Hazen of Biola University in SoCal spoke of using "side doors" as opportunities to spread the Gospel. He explained side doors as art, music, plays, and movies, those "things" secular people can relate to, and that we as Christians can often use as an intro in order to get the message of Christ out. (see Hazen's book The 7 Sacred Crossings). Brother Travis, I too understand your arguement (even though I disagreed with it), but unfortunately to me it sounded so much like something an old cynical cop might say (and after 32 years in law enforcement I've met my share of cynical cops). Brothers - I do appreciated your perspectives and am humbled by the work both you Travis and MC are doing. Keep running the race and fighting the good fight. Blessings

Andi said...

As a reviewer I am sad to say that you totally missed the point of the movie. I am not a follower of your blog, I found it when I was doing research to write my own review. The movie was about extending GRACE . . .Mac was full of bitterness, and anger - most of which he didn't even realize he had bottled up until it was revealed to him. As Sam's wife Joy told him, he was put into Mac's life for a reason. Sam was the light to God, he was Jesus to him. Mac did confess his sins, last I knew GOD knows the heart, not man . . Mac's vocal "I'm sorry God" is that any different than the woman reaching for the hem of Christ's rob . . I think not. Comparing it to Fireproof is like comparing apples to oranges! Fireproof was about a man with a porn addiction cheating on his wife, this movie was about a man whose son had died that hadn't dealt with it. The movie was beautifully done and showed how with God's GRACE and love families can be repaired and healed.

Patricia said...

I appreciate finding your review on the internet. I was looking to see if the movie was still playing and I found your site. I really honor your opinions and insight about the message of the Gospel and how it did or did not relate in the movie. My husband was in law enforcement and in drug interdiction. He is a true life example of someone living through losing a child and God bringing him through the dark valley of doubt, anger and depression. He has lived through the crisis of his faith and is on the other side with healing. Our daughter died 6 years ago at the hand of a drug dealer, and a drug overdose that my husbands believes was a hot shot given her after a night of domestic violence. My husband is also a minister and worked in Police bi-vocationally to support our large family. The movie seemed to have so many parallels with with his life. If you are interested in hearing his story, please contact me at and I will happily send you a complementary copy of his book entitled, "The Protector, The Randy Shankle Story." It is a faith book to help others struggling in life. Thanks for your time. God bless. said...

When we go fishing, we can use tools such as a fishing pole, fishing line, bate, ect...
I liken these types of movies to that very thing. I plan on showing the dvd, making some good food, and inviting a few people that will have questions, as we sit and discuss points that may have not been stated, such as the scripture Acts 4:12~..."There is no other name given unto men under heaven by which we may be saved..." It is our responsibility to know it and share it, whether it's stated clearly in the movie or not. Use it as a tool! :o) It was filmed much better than the "Christian Movies" of the 80's!

Becky said...

I am a Christian and I have seen Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Sherwood pictures very 1st movie Flywheel.. That being said I am glad this movie was a little different.. It was an AWESOME movie that was a little slow but had a great message... Unlike the other movies mentioned you could actually recommend this one to your "non-believer" friends and they might actually watch it because it doesn't share the word like the others but it still shares the message..
Another one I highly recommend is Soul Surfer..

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you on your review of this movie. I just watched it and I think it did what was intended. Whet the appetites of anyone watching to consider Christ as the answer. We also want non believers to watch the movie, don;t we?

Titus2homemaker said...

Actually I have to agree with you. With our children gone this last Saturday (Grandma & Grandpa's), my husband and I thought it'd be nice to have a little "date" and watch this movie together.

Like you I was disturbed by the family prayer around the dinner table and the glance I got from my dh told me he was thinking the same thing! Then, the very scene you mentioned - the one where the two men are in the little chapel - where Mac is crying and says (or prays), "I'm sorry...," and Sam tells him that God forgives him, caused both of us to sit up and go,"HUH?!"

In fact, my husband actually stopped the film, scratched his head, and said, "What a minute! Did I miss something? Did that guy just tell him that he's forgiven by God after that?" I, sitting rather dumbfoundedly, could only reply with, "Uh, I dunno'. Rewind it and see."

So there it is - just say "sorry" and everything's alright? Yet we know that Mac did not understand the gospel because every time his partner had even SLIGHTLY referred to God, he was resistant and unwilling to listen. But now he can just say "sorry" and that's supposedly equivalent to repentance and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ?

Wow, what a disappointment. I really had wanted to like this movie and had high hopes when we rented it! That said, I really appreciate you taking the time to review it.