Who says faith-based movies can't be fun?
Probably a lot of people, including those who refused to make it, even after scriptwriter, Jim Carroll, won more than 60 awards for his script at various film festivals in 2020 with a film called Assassin 33A.D. That doesn't mean they're right.
Even with all of the accolades, Carroll couldn't sell the film, so he decided to make some changes. I haven't seen Assassin 33 A.D., but from what I understand, Black Easter is a more pithy version that has been edited to appeal to a broader audience.
That makes some sense since this is a Christian, faith-based film. The premise is that a Muslim billionaire named Ahmed hires a group of geniuses to create a time machine so that he can go back into time and kill Jesus for perpetrating one of the biggest scams of all time.
Before you get a chance to say it, yes, this movie has some issues with portrayals of the Muslim faith, but it attempts to skate over them by admitting, by way of voiceover, essentially, don't be hatin' on all Muslims because this particular bunch is extremist.
I don't consider myself staunchly politically correct, but that stuck out like a sore thumb. It's a cringe-worthy way to overtly admit that, yes, your villain is a cartoon-esque Christian-hating Muslim, but it's just entertainment.
Frankly, it would have gone over well had the voiceover not gleefully discussed it. After all, if Carroll felt the need to include it, then he's as good as confessed to knowingly writing a character is hard to swallow.
It's not any better that all of Ahmed's compadres push back on his desire to nip Christianity in the bud with faux outrage.
I don't want to see a character like Ahmed with the Cruella treatment any more than I want to see others of the same faith claiming that they really wouldn't think it was cool to kill Jesus, who was a prophet, after all. It was just a little too much.
With all of that out of the way, Black Easter is actually fun. It's the Starship Troopers of Christian films. It's ridiculous and over the top, but that doesn't mean your time is wasted, far from it.
Carroll has managed to make a very slick action flick with a different slant on time travel. The question is as old as time itself. If you could change something by whisking backward in time, what would it be?
Ahmed knows very well that most people will consider killing Hitler. He says so when discussing it with his top scientist, Ram Goldstein (Morgan Roberts).
Ram is a scientist through and through and has no belief in God. He seems like a pretty decent candidate to get the job done without much fuss.
But Ram doesn't need to be a God-fearing man to suss out that, once he successfully invents time travel, alter the time continuum forever with his mission, and he'll likely kill Ram and his friends, too.
That's enough to light a fire inside Ram, and he begins planning ways to fail. To set that fire into a roaring blaze, Ahmed starts killing those Ram loves so that the only way to save them would be to go back in time and change things.
Ahhh. Optimism. The unending hope that we can be our own heroes. It works for Ram! He decides to succeed in creating the time machine so that he can use it to put everything right.
The plot twists and turns itself backward to 33 A.D. and forward to 2029 B.C. in and out and up and down until there are several versions of many trying to thwart each other's plans.
Ram is the least interesting character in the bunch, even if he's the narrator (unnecessary voiceovers with a delivery similar to How I Met Your Mother's Bob Saget) and lead.
Ram's team consists of his girlfriend, a devout Christian genius named Amy (Isla Levine), and fellow geniuses Simon (Lamar Usher) and Felix (Cesar D' La Torre).
The main man working on Ahmed's behalf is Brandt (Donny Boaz), a soldier hero who lost his wife (Heidi Montag) and children in a tragic accident that has turned him against God.
The two most interesting characters and the best actors are Boaz as Brandt and Usher as Simon. They represent the crux of the story, with Brandt's grief and wavering faith and with Simon's humor and unexpected belief in Jesus.
Boaz, who I know only from The Young and the Restless, carries the emotional burden of the movie. Brandt is conflicted about his actions but resolute in his anger at God for taking away his family. His desperation sets him up well to be the face of Jesus' (Jason Castro) forgiveness.
Usher's Simon is naturally engaging, quickly becoming friendly with Jesus, poking fun at the Son of God without hesitation. As silly as it seems, it's a nice reminder that Jesus was just a man, and especially in his most trying time, he might have appreciated a little humor.
In a more serious version of this film, Brandt would be the lead. Boaz's performance deserves the distinction, and Brandt's journey is the Christian throughline that holds the faith-based portion of the movie together.
Other than Boaz and Usher, the rest of the cast is more unpolished, which helps elevate Usher's and Boaz's performances even more.
It all makes me wonder what Assassin 33 A.D. might look like.
Carroll says he toned down the special effects, modifying the big scenes, and cut out the apocalypse to create Black Easter. But I can't help but think that Carroll also slashed some of the faith-based content to create a more festive action-adventure atmosphere overall.
Maybe, once Black Easter drops on Amazon Prime on June 26, Assassin 33 A.D. will follow for comparison purposes. I'd definitely check it out.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.