I’ve watched my fair-share of Christian B-level films about the end-times. Take the Anti-Christ, Christian persecution, imprisonment, and escape plots, mix it all together with a few optional elements, and there you have it. Still, hope springs eternal, so when I saw a DVD with the Sony label attached to it, I was willing to spend 106 minutes in a quasi-futuristic world. Unfortunately after watching Six: The Mark Unleashed my quest to find an end-times film worthy of investing my time or money on continues.
Originally released in 2004, this year’s re-release of the direct-to-DVD film features a new cover design and an affiliation with Sony Pictures. Combined with the names of some instantly recognizable actors – Stephen Baldwin and Jeffrey Dean Morgan first among them – The Mark Unleashed offered a ray of hope amongst the generally lack-luster DVD offerings available in the Christian marketplace.
Opening with an interesting premise – the Leader has taken over the world, requiring his minions to be implanted with a device that prolongs life, diminishes conscience, acts as birth control, and otherwise controls their emotions and behaviour. Free-thinkers, and Christians are amongst those refusing to receive the implant (the mark), and it is two rebels working as car thieves and a black-market smuggler that the film revolves around.
Finding themselves imprisoned the trio comes into contact with a large group of Christian inmates awaiting execution upon refusing to take the mark. Amongst these is Stephen Baldwin, the de facto leader of this prison church, where – surprisingly – inmates are allowed Bibles and freedom to gather and worship. Together the three plan their escape from confinement in a search to find Eli Cohen, a man well known for his efforts in preaching salvation to the remaining rebels.
Sadly any potential inherent in the screenplay and cast is largely mitigated by directorial and budget constraints. Decent lines are thrown away with lack of dramatic emphasis and timing issues. The plot becomes scattered and unfocused with loose threads and senseless inclusions in the films latter half.
Baldwin’s character – the most prominent Christian in the film – is entirely too creepy. He seemingly knows everything due to his personal time with God, speaks in an otherworldly monotone meant to convey peace and serenity, but comes across as eerie, and can seem smug as he reveals his personal prophesies. He’s the uber-Christian, never getting mad, frustrated, acting uncertain, or dealing with any doubts, insecurities or struggles – making him more of an automaton than a real man.
Though listed as “Not Rated”, I’d assign Six: The Mark Unleashed a PG-13 rating. Though poorly executed, the scenes of neurological torture and the occasional shooting (think people throwing themselves awkwardly to the ground with no blood) would be disturbing for younger viewers. Standard scene navigation is included on the disc, as well as a director’s commentary, behind the scenes, bloopers reel, deleted scenes and previews that are available as special features.
As a believer I share the evangelical heart of the makers of the film. Most of the actors are also clearly Christian, which is appreciated in a faith-based film. Still, I long for a day to arrive when sub-standard films are no longer hailed as brilliant within the Christian community.