Okay, an admission right up front, this review contains spoilers for the film The Final Inquiry. Here it comes… Ready? Jesus dies. If that doesn’t shock or surprise you then absolutely nothing else about this movie will. It is, very nearly, the most mediocre film, ever. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just barely okay. It tries to be something fresh and engaging and ends up doing nothing more than getting your hopes up only to dash them on the jagged rocks of predictability, barely adequate production values and a thinly disguised Sunday morning sermon.
Just looking at the DVD sleeve will have you believing that having phenomenal actors like Max von Sydow and F Murray Abraham immediately improve the chances that the relatively unknown principles have a lot to live up to. Instead you get leading roles played by pretty foreign film stars that suffer through banal dialogue, almost laughable voice overs (many of the actors are Spanish and Italian) and still manage to look just plain bored. Hell, even Dolph Lundgren stretched himself in this film and rocketed into something close to adequate. F Murray Abraham and Max von Sydow dominate every scene they’re in with their presence. Unfortunately, the director forgot to remind them that they were being paid to A-C-T.
It’s safe to say that someone had a really great idea. Find another way to tell the most famous story in history from a completely different perspective. That’s exactly how the movie begins. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes as the story unfolds with agonizing predictability and nauseatingly familiar drama.
*Warning: sarcasm alert* The story cleverly starts with cut scenes of the crucifixion atop Golgotha. It then brilliantly blends with scenes of people running around while the camera shakes, plaster falls from the wooden ceilings and the image zooms in and out. You know, typical earthquake stuff, right out of Land of the Lost and the original Star Trek. The emperor of Rome (von Sydow), and it’s obvious he’s the emperor because he’s old, wears a toga and has a crown made from a laurel branch, suddenly notices the ground shaking, spills his golden goblet of wine and runs to the edge of the cliff next to his opulent seaside villa. The Emporer immediately sends a message to his chief investigator (Daniele Liotti), currently tracking an escaped war criminal in Germania and slaughtering entire villages of German savages, who befriends a brave warrior who looks amazingly like He-Man wearing rodent furs (Lundgren).
Okay, so the story took a few unexpected twists, which, if they’d taken the story in a completely unexpected direction, would have made it intriguing and enjoyable. They don’t and it wasn’t. Obviously, the production company that made this movie wanted to offer a fresh perspective on a story that nearly everyone has already heard.
Unfortunately, it just can’t seem to avoid coming across as preaching dressed up as a boring sword and sandal film that wouldn’t even qualify for late night viewing. Sure, the sets are just elaborate enough to be beautiful and the actors are also pleasing to look at but every surface, including the actors, looks like it was recently scrubbed and had a fresh coat of paint, or make-up. There was no raw grit or tension or darkness or any of the contrasting elements that makes life on film appear more real and interesting than life itself. Instead, it was almost like watching gray figures performing in front of a gray curtain under an overcast sky.
Giulio Base (director) / Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Ennio Flaiano, Valerio Manfredi, Andrea Porporati (screenplay)
CAST: Daniele Liotti … Tito Valerio Tauro
Dolph Lundgren … Brixos
Mónica Cruz … Tabitha
Hristo Shopov … Pontius Pilate
Christo Jivkov … Stefano
Ornella Muti … Mary of Magdalene
F. Murray Abraham … Nathan
Max von Sydow … Tiberius