Sometimes it works out really well to go to a movie without seeing a trailer for the film first, having only read what the movie is about. Other times it’s probably a good idea to at least find out if you’re in the target audience first. The Masked Saint fits into the second category of films.
Based on a true story, the concept behind The Masked Saint is that a professional wrestler retires to become a pastor, and he ends up relying more on the skills be built in the ring than he might have expected.
While this certainly isn’t the first movie I’ve seen which incorporates a pastor as one of its characters, it does a bit more preaching of the Christian doctrine than some people might be prepared for, be it from the pastor, his wife, or members of the congregation. That would be my first big warning to people considering seeing the film. If you’re someone who is turned off hearing people preach Christianity, the odds of you walking out of the theater or turning off the DVD (or Blu-ray) before it’s over are high.
And as you might guess from the description provided above, there’s a significant amount of wrestling content in the film. Though the plot centers around The Saint’s work in his community and through the church, the world of professional wrestling is a significant contributor to the storyline in several ways. You don’t have to know much about the business to enjoy the film, nor do you have to get excited by wrestling to appreciate what happens in the scenes involving the physical performance art. As a long time fan of professional wrestling, I can tell you that the moves they perform are well executed and beautifully filmed. The matches on display would feel at home with a lot of the televised wrestling organizations I’ve seen over the years. Brett Granstaff looked so natural in the wrestling ring that I’m surprised to see that he isn’t a professional wrestler-turned-actor, but rather holds a master’s degree from the UK’s Cambridge University. That’s not to say that his acting outside of the ring was sub-par, a claim I’d never just generally apply to professional wrestlers who try their hand in the movie business.
The problems I have with the film are in the areas where things just didn’t feel natural, scenes that were rushed or poorly written. The majority of the characters in the film weren’t necessarily cartoonish, despite some of them deserving a bit more depth, but at times their actions didn’t have an organic nature to them. With a slight change here or there, I feel like the movie would come across much better. A prostitute shows up in the middle of a church service, sits in the back to listen to the sermon, and suddenly people start glaring at her. The pastor stops what he’s doing, keeps her from walking out, and gives a sermon to the congregation from the aisle on needing to be more welcoming of all people, despite whatever sins they might have committed. While I appreciate the scene, it felt rushed and forced and didn’t even include any mentions from the pastor that in the Bible, Jesus worked to reform the prostitutes instead of shunning them. Had he mentioned that, and had the scene occurred in a different way, I wouldn’t have rolled my eyes.
The back-and-forth between the pastor and the town’s lead detective (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) was interesting and served as one of the bright threads in the storyline. Patrick McKenna took one of the antagonist roles and kept it from feeling too cartoonish, which that character could have easily felt if not performed properly. Lara Jean Chorostecki had good chemistry with Granstaff and was the perfect pastor’s wife (and I’ve known a few to compare her to!), another archetype which I’ve seen messed up in the past. James Preston Rodgers didn’t have much in the way of dialogue to sell his character, but performed well enough in the ring to make me think that the man who portrayed The Reaper was a former wrestler – which was due to more than just his size and physical build. Roddy Piper felt natural in his role as the WFW promoter for whom The Masked Saint worked.
All in all, I enjoyed the film, but there is a narrow group of people I would recommend it to, given the content, and even fewer given the eye-rolling moments caused by how several scenes unfold and a fair amount of the dialogue. But not every movie needs to unfold perfectly to enjoy, and not all dialogue needs to be Shakespeare, Aaron Sorkin or even Richard Linklater.
My rating: 60 out of 100
Bottom line? It gets points for never being boring, and because I’d absolutely watch it again, it scores above a 50. If you’re okay with Christian preaching and professional wrestling, go check out The Masked Saint!