By JOHN MULDERIG, OSV News | Published June 8, 2023
NEW YORK (OSV News)—Viewers may be misled by the title of director and co-writer Abel Ferrara’s historical drama “Padre Pio” (Gravitas). The film is less a profile of the titular saint, played passionately by Shia LaBeouf, than a portrait of San Giovanni Rotondo, the Apulian town of his Capuchin monastery, in the period immediately after World War I.
Moviegoers in search of an uplifting hagiography, accordingly, should look elsewhere. All the more so since Ferrara’s script, penned with Maurizio Braucci, includes graphic material that precludes endorsement for a wide range of age groups as well as themes suitable only for the fully catechized.
As Father Pio grapples with tormenting Satanic visions, the Italian social tensions that would eventually set the scene for the rise of Fascism mount. These are personified in wealthy, corrupt local landowner Renato (Brando Pacitto) on the one side and a group of virtuous socialists, including young would-be revolutionary Luigi (Vincenzo Crea), on the other.
The screenplay suggests points of coherence between Marxism and Christianity. But if that sounds like an uneasy mix, the attempted blending of the events unfolding inside the walls of the Franciscan refuge and those transpiring beyond it is equally unstable. Thus the picture manages to be at once respectful of Christian spirituality and anti-clerical.
The former stance leads to the moving scene in which Padre Pio receives the stigmata. The latter gives us the sight of the local parish priest, Don Anselmo (Piergiuseppe Francione), a dedicated ally of the oppressors, blessing their guns with holy water before a showdown with the good guys.
Such a caricature is, unfortunately, in keeping with the movie’s ham-handed approach to history and ideology. It’s a shame that LaBeouf’s all-in performance—as is well-known, his participation in this project has resulted in his conversion to Catholicism—should come wrapped in such a burdensome husk.
Somewhere inside Ferrara’s flawed political and social retrospective is an intriguing biopic struggling to get out of confinement. A narrower focus would have yielded much stronger results.
The film contains brief but intense gory violence, demonic behavior, rear nudity, references to incest, several rough terms and a couple of crass expressions. The OSV News classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
“Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony)
After downbeat opening scenes involving a teen angst-ridden Spider-Woman (voice of Hailee Steinfeld), this animated sequel to 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” hits its stride with witty dialogue enlivening the further adventures of the Brooklyn-based hero (voice of Shameik Moore) as he tangles with a mutant mad scientist (voice of Jason Schwartzman) whose increasing powers threaten cosmic destruction. Co-directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, the Marvel Comics-derived proceedings feature rapid-fire action, a constantly multiplying array of varied Spideys and plot developments pitting personal happiness against the greater good. The result is a crowd pleaser that may prove confusing to the uninitiated but will be catnip for hardcore fans. Possibly acceptable for mature adolescents. Much stylized violence, a few mild oaths, about a half-dozen crass terms. The OSV News classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Fast X” (Universal)
This 10th direct installment of the action franchise that first put the pedal to the metal in 2001 features some religious symbolism and much rhetoric about the bonds that unite its self-constituted family of car-racers but also incorporates a high quotient of nasty mayhem. As the clan’s patriarch (Vin Diesel) goes up against the scion (Jason Momoa) of a drug-dealing dynasty out for revenge against the crew, his loopy but resourceful adversary targets those closest to the skilled driver, including his brother (John Cena), wife (Michelle Rodriguez) and young son (Leo Abelo Perry). Any resemblance to reality in director Louis Leterrier’s glossy adventure is purely accidental, so the fact that the gang (which also includes Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel) continues to show a reckless disregard for the welfare of pursuing police and innocent pedestrians need not be taken very seriously by those grown moviegoers for whom this extension of the saga is appropriate. Frequent bloodless but sometimes harsh violence, gruesome images, a scene of marital sensuality, a few uses of profanity, about a half-dozen milder oaths, considerable crude and crass language, an obscene gesture. The OSV News classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.