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Saturday, October 23, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Judas Project': Certainly Not Worth 30 Pieces Of Silver

Movie review

X "The Judas Project," with John O'Banion, Ramy Zada, Jeff Corey. Directed and written by James H. Barden. Aurora, City Centre, Everett Mall, Gateway, Grand Cinemas Alderwood, Renton Village, Totem Lake. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised because of violence. -------------------------------------------------------------------

In this murky melodrama about the Second Coming, Jesus is a Brad Dourif lookalike named Jesse (coyly played by John O'Banion) who rounds up a gang of Georgia fishermen named Pete, John, James and Andy.

He resurrects a drowned man, gives sight to the blind, makes bread loaves multiply and says things like "It's the quality of life that determines the value" and "Every life needs a light switch." Well-coiffed and confident, he's obviously been to a better tailor than his disciples.

Just to make it clear exactly who he is, he stands on a mountain top while visual-effects supervisor Richard Edlund reworks the cloud effects from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," complete with those cute, darting little lights that flew circles around the mother ship - although this time they're supposed to represent the souls of the departed.

"You're good but not that good," claims Jude (Ramy Zada), who gives Jesse that fatal kiss for 30 bars of silver in the opening scene, thereby destroying what little suspense the movie has.

The writer-director-producer, James H. Barden, follows the biblical story so closely that Jesus/Jesse has nothing new to say to the 20th century. There's no attempt to imagine the passion in modern terms, as Denys Arcand did so eloquently in "Jesus of Montreal."

Pilate has become a corporate megalomaniac who washes his hands when the new messiah refuses his offers of power. "Stop this fanaticism and learn to be a team player!" screams the Caiaphas figure, played by veteran actor Jeff Corey ("Bird on a Wire"), who tells Jesse: "You reek of back alleys and blasphemy."

Speaking of blasphemy, Barden also composed and sang the insultingly wimpy songs that drift in and out of "The Judas Project" as if they were playing on a distant, hard-to-pick-up radio station. One person's sacrilege may be another person's art, but where were those "Last Temptation" protesters when this movie opened here yesterday?

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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