ix: The Mark Unleashed", besides featuring a
title that seems to have little relevance to the actual film (or at least
any that I could decipher), is advertised as a Christian movie. The film
seems to take place in some indeterminate years in the future, or perhaps
a really screwed up present, where religion has been crushed under the
boot heel of hippie-like conformity. A "community" has sprung up
to engulfed the world, led by "The Leader", an unseen man who
claims to be God, and who broadcasts his speeches using the voice of the
Movie Previews Guy.
Our story opens with buddy car thieves Brody (David
White) and Jerry (Kevin Downes) getting captured by Johnny Law when their
getaway car runs out of gas. They're tossed in the slammer at the same
time as ex-cop Tom Newman (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who after a bout of
torture has agreed to work for the Leader and assassinate a Christian
leader spreading the gospel. To that end, Tom gets bunked with Luke
(Stephen Baldwin), who claims to talk to God, and seems to know everything
about Tom even before Tom opens his mouth.
With its obvious low budget, I'm not sure if
"Six" works as a science fiction film. There's certainly nothing
very forward thinking about the sets or the visual style. Then again, it's
probably for the best that the film never tries to be too ambitious, since
doing so would only call attention to its small budget. Instead,
writer/director/co-star Kevin Downes wisely focuses on characterization
and the overreaching theme of faith versus mindless conformity. And unlike
most Christian films, "Six" seems determined to take chances.
The movie tackles the delicate question of rather
religion is just another method to control the populace and turn them
mindless, much like the film's Leader is doing with his mind-control
devices. As Brody often quips out loud, what's the difference between a
man calling himself God and reprogramming people's heads and "Jesus
freaks" believing in an invisible God? In this regard, you certainly
have to give the film credit; it doesn't shy away from the hard questions,
and goes to great lengths to take both sides to task for their cons, as
well as mentioning their pros.
Another impressive aspect of "Six" is the
acting, which is quite good across the board. There are a few familiar
faces (Stephen Baldwin being one, and Eric Roberts, who has a minor cameo
in the beginning, is the other), but the rest will be new faces to
mainstream audiences. As the pseudo lead (because the film seems unconcern
with assigning leading man status to any one particular character) Jeffrey
Dean Morgan carries much of the film on his strong shoulders.
Co-stars/co-writers Kevin Downes, as the born-again Jerry, and David White
as the forever skeptic Brody, supplies good comic timing in the beginning
and then dramatic reinforcement later on.
In what amounts to a co-starring turn, Stephen
Baldwin is at his most effective as the messianic Luke, a jailbird who
preaches the gospel. The prison setting takes up most of the film, and
that's where the movie sets up much of its strange premise. You see, in
the movie's world, non-conformists are those who refuse to wear The
Leader's mark on their hand and get reprogrammed. Non-believers are
sentenced to prison, where they are given a certain number of days to
"voluntarily" choose to wear the mark or get their heads chopped
off at the guillotine. Here, Baldwin and his disciples happily wait for
death, thereby undermining their enemy's reasons for sentencing them in
the first place. It's a concept the bad guys can't seem to grasp.
With a movie like "Six", you can either go
with it or buck against it. Then again, if one was prone to snickering at
"Six's" storyline, I'm not sure why one would partake in the
film in the first place. The message is readily obvious, although as
previously mentioned, the film does take pains to present the other side
with some conviction. As a non-Christian, I approach movies like
"Six: The Mark Unleashed" from simply an entertainment value
point of view. I'm afraid its message about faith is lost on a heathen
such as myself.
As a genre film, "Six" is pretty decent.
It's a well-acted movie, with a script that wasn't completely predictable.
The entire Third Act has enough twists and turns to last another hour; and
in fact the final 30 minutes does seem a bit rushed, especially
considering how long the film took to get to it. This stab at making a
Christian genre film is probably as good as you'll get from the Christian
filmmaking community, which oftentimes seems more concern with pounding
the audience over the head with its message than making a decent,
entertaining film. After all, you can only have so many movies about the