Combustible Celluloid
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With: Scott Haze, Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack, James Franco, Ciera Danielle, Vince Jolivette, Fallon Goodson, Brian Lally, Nina Ljeti, Jeremy Ambler, Terrance Huff, Wade Williams
Written by: James Franco, Vince Jolivette, based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy
Directed by: James Franco
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing aberrant sexual content, nudity, language and some violence
Running Time: 104
Date: 08/01/2014

Child of God (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

God and the Devil

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a 1973 novel by Cormac McCarthy, Child of God concerns Lester Ballard (Scott Haze), an unhinged, unstable young man -- a "child of God much like yourself perhaps" -- who is thrown out of his childhood home and takes to living in the woods. Armed with his rifle, for which he saved up and bought as a child, he hunts and steals to survive. Soon he desires companionship. He wins some giant stuffed animals at a carnival, but he craves a human touch. He comes across a dead man and woman in a car and decides to have sex with the woman's body. He keeps her in his shack, but when the shack burns and he loses her, he must start killing young lovers to keep up his new hobby.

This is one of those cases in which "good" doesn't really apply. Director James Franco has by all accounts presented a faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel, and its powerful themes come through clearly. Namely: It's possible to stray a long way into isolation, depravation, and outright evil, but we're all "children of God." On top of that, actor Scott Haze has given a journeyman's performance in the lead role, howling and raging, and seemingly enduring superhuman loads of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish.

Yet the physical experience of watching this no-frills movie is difficult, dealing as it does with necrophilia, on top of images of human filth, coldblooded murder, and unbridled hatred and cruelty. To pan the movie based on discomfort would be wrong, but to recommend it to casual viewers, especially those that like the other McCarthy films (No Country for Old Men, The Road, etc.) would also be wrong. So, in essence, it's here if you're ready for it.

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