Nefarious

Nefarious the character may or may not be a demon, but Nefarious the movie is the Anti-Woke. What's something is that it's also good.
81/100174623
Starring
Sean Patrick Flanery, Jordan Belfi
Directors
Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
Rating
R
Genre
Horror, Thriller
Where to watch
Vudu (rent), Amazon Prime (rent)
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Plot/Story
70%
Visuals/Cinematography
70%
Performance
88%
Direction
79%
Non-Wokeness
100%
Rating Summary
Less of a story and more a discussion had with style; Nefarious is an Evel Knievel leap forward for "conservative" filmmaking. Equipped with excellent pacing, first-rate dialogue, and clever cinematography, the bulk of Nefarious's 1.5 hours falls on the shoulders of actors Sean Patrick Flanery and Jordan Belfi. Fortunately, Belfi is up to the task and never looks out of place when confronted with Flanery's electrifying performance.

The landmark Supreme Court case Ford v. Wainwright, which took place in 1974, established a precedent regarding the execution of prisoners deemed “mentally incompetent.” The court’s ruling concluded that such executions violate the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Against this backdrop, Nefarious raises an intriguing inquiry: What if the prisoner, instead of being mentally incompetent, is believed to be possessed by a demonic entity?

Nefarious

Drawing inspiration from Steve Deace’s compelling novel titled “A Nefarious Plot,” the film “Nefarious” weaves a narrative around the character of Edward Brady, portrayed by the talented Sean Patrick Flanery. Brady is confined to death row and faces imminent execution, compelling the legal system to subject him to a psychiatric evaluation mere hours before his scheduled demise. The court-appointed psychiatrist shoulders the crucial responsibility of ascertaining Brady’s mental competence, for a favorable assessment, would lead to his execution by means of the electric chair. However, the story takes an unexpected twist when the intellectually inclined atheist doctor realizes that he must also explore the perplexing possibility of Brady being demonically possessed.

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Nefarious, far from an Exorsist-esque gore-fest, is a thought-provoking film that primarily unfolds within the confines of a single room, where two characters engage in a lengthy conversation. Given this constrained setting, one might anticipate the 1.5-hour runtime to drag on. However, thanks to the film’s predominantly sharp and poignant dialogue, delivered through performances ranging from above-average to exceptional, Nefarious manages to captivate and engross its audience.

The supporting characters, though few, are skillfully portrayed to avoid detracting from the narrative or appearing out of place—a notable achievement for an independent Christian film. Notably, Tom Ohmer, a seasoned actor, assumes the role of Warden Moss, receiving the most significant screen time outside of the movie’s two leads. Although not necessarily commanding, Ohmer’s performance fulfills its purpose by intertwining exposition and temptation within a well-intentioned yet misguided blend of judicial expediency and righteous indignation.

Arguably, the most demanding role in the film falls to Dr. James Martin, portrayed by Jordan Belfi (known for his work in Entourage). Martin embodies a modern man embracing progressive ideas and ideals but whose arrogance requires humbling. Belfi skillfully treads the line between an arrogant skeptic and a sympathetic victim thrust into a situation for which he is ill-prepared. His portrayal of an intellectual whose sense of self rests on a conceited belief in understanding the nature of the universe, only to be confronted with tangible evidence that challenges his worldview, presents a fitting counterpart to Sean Patrick Flanery’s portrayal of Edward Brady (aka Nefarious).

Flanery, acclaimed for his leading role in the cult classic The Boondock Saints (a must-watch), delivers a performance that commands attention. In Nefarious, he undergoes a remarkable transformation, effortlessly transitioning between the controlled and menacing presence of Nefarious and the tormented and pitiable figure of Brady. Flanery’s unwavering commitment to his character is evident in every moment, making for a terrifyingly delightful viewing experience.

Comparable to the film Phone Booth, wherein Colin Farrell’s character spends most of the story confined within a 3′ by 3′ box, Nefarious employs cinematography that subtly emerges as the film’s third star. Without pretentious or excessive artistic flourishes, it maintains a sense of movement and dynamism, despite the movie’s predominantly conversational nature.

Nonetheless, the film’s standout aspect lies in the dialogue exchanged between the two lead characters. At its core, Nefarious engages in a debate between modern progressivism and Christianity. Remarkably, this overtly Christian film manages to convey its message effectively while avoiding the pitfalls that often hinder movies of this nature. By employing Faustian theatrics as a framework and pairing it with Flanery’s masterful performance, the author’s words and message resonate clearly. More importantly, they evoke a profound emotional response, which ultimately exemplifies the essence and purpose of the cinematic art form.

That being said, it is important to acknowledge that no film is devoid of flaws. While the primary conversation carries substantial strength, there are a few minor yet notable instances of uneven and clumsy expositional dialogue in other parts of the film. Additionally, although Sean Patrick Flanery delivers an outstanding performance, he occasionally relies too heavily on certain repetitive physical choices that could be seen as a performance crutch. Ideally, these tendencies should have been addressed by the directors during the production. However, it is worth noting that these concerns are minor in the extreme and do not detract significantly from the overall quality of Flanery’s commendable performance.

On the subject of performances, Glenn Beck’s portrayal of himself in the film cannot go unmentioned. While his screen time is minor and his performance is adequately executed, it is often distracting and jarring to see well-known figures playing themselves in works of fiction, so it was in  Nefarious. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that there is a reason why I personally prefer listening to Beck’s radio show rather than watching him on screen. In terms of cinematography, Jason Head’s work in Nefarious is generally commendable, but one notable misstep lies in the close-up shots featuring the unhealthy-looking Beck.

Furthermore, the decision to conclude the film with an expositional interview as a means to tie loose ends together is a convenient choice. Still, this approach is particularly problematic, considering that a significant portion of the movie is already dedicated to the conversation between the two central characters. This decision represents a missed opportunity for a more inventive and satisfying conclusion.

In a year that has seen the release of Christian and conservative films like Jesus Revolution and Sound of Freedom, Nefarious emerges as another significant milestone in amplifying our perspective and strengthening our presence within popular culture. It is indeed a welcome relief to categorize this film as “Worth it.”

 

WOKE ELEMENTS

Nefarious is the Anti-Woke.

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James Carrick

James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.

17 comments

  • Eddie

    May 29, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    Great movie, definitely worth watching!

    2
    1

    Reply

  • Chuck Konzelman

    June 6, 2023 at 8:02 pm

    James, I see Nefarious listed (thank you for that) but no rating. Since one reviewer called it “the most non-woke movie I’ve ever seen”… we’d like to audition. Need a screener?

    B

    Reply

    • James Carrick

      June 6, 2023 at 8:10 pm

      I’d love a screener. I tried to go see it a couple of times but wasn’t able to get to it. Then, it was gone from any theater close to me.

      Reply

      • Jill

        June 8, 2023 at 3:35 pm

        As of today, finally for rent on Amazon Prime.

        Reply

  • Ele

    June 9, 2023 at 6:00 pm

    I had heard very little about this, but you’ve made me curious. I’m going to have to check it out. Thanks.

    Reply

  • Sylvia Osterday

    June 20, 2023 at 9:57 am

    Nefarious should be viewed by everyone. It is a wakeup call to what is happening to our world. See it several times as you miss so much. The performance by Sean Patrick Flannery is Oscar worthy but Hollywood will not recognize him.

    Reply

  • J M

    June 20, 2023 at 10:59 am

    I saw the movie three times, the script is tight, suspenseful and riveting. The thing I hate most is that you couldn’t share very much about it with people without spoiling the plot.

    The entire film keeps building and building for the climax and it was such a suspenseful and eye opening (non woke) ride I didn’t want to spoil it for anybody.

    Reply

  • stan

    June 20, 2023 at 11:18 am

    watched this movie two nights ago and wow, what a thrilling watch. I am not much for “talkies” but this film kept me hooked until the interview at the end, which i also feel was kinda redundant and could have been done differently. Still, watching a movie that challenges the current world’s narcissistic approach to the “Me” culture and the “we have never been more free and equal” debate, it hits home with alot of it’s warnings and challenging narratives of “are we trully free and living in a better world that ever before” when there is much going on around us that really shows we are sliding down a path of no return. Definitely worth it, and not as heavy in it’s christian metaphors as you might think it is but is a very sobering reminder that we need to be careful of what we blindly accept as “morally and socially accepted norms”

    Reply

  • Betty Bryant

    June 20, 2023 at 4:18 pm

    I cannot say enough good things about this movie. I was glued to it the whole time. Sean Flannery is outstanding. I hope he gets some kind of recognition for this performance. I highly recommend this movie.

    Reply

  • Kathy Clinton

    June 21, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    Can’t wait to watch this.

    Reply

  • Shannon pertch

    July 2, 2023 at 1:11 am

    Definitely not horror. Watched with our grown kids. All of us are conservatives. It was not a movie. More of a statement and too preachy for all of us. Good acting.

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  • Bored_on_Wall_Street

    July 13, 2023 at 4:21 am

    I watched this tonight, and found your site in a search for interesting commentary. The script–while better than average–really needed another pass, as it was not only clunky at times, but the demon’s views on the modern world sounded more like one’s uncle drunk posting on FB rather than a formerly angelic being’s observations.

    But that being said, by modern hollywood standards, this was a well-crafted movie, with a mounting sense of tension as to how the final murder will play out. While his first two murders in less deft hands would come across as shrill preaching, the stage-play setting really focuses the sin on the shrink’s selfishness, which drives events. All (formerly) young indiana jones does is point out half-truths, but with enough truth to unmoor the shrink and reveal him.

    As for glen beck ending, I had another take: it should be the a positive ending, our lead is saying the right words, appearing on a producer’s show, a face we all recognize. But, inexplicably, he still doesn’t believe…and there’s old scratch waiting for him outside as he walks away.

    An imperfect movie but it at least provokes thoughts.

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  • Red Ermint

    July 28, 2023 at 7:55 pm

    The reviewer seems to not understand that the interview at the end of the movie to plug the book ties the film to the book and makes the movie a prequel to it.

    Reply

    • James Carrick

      July 28, 2023 at 8:49 pm

      Whether or not a book tie-in is its purpose is not the question. The question is, does it work within the film’s continuum, and is it a quality effort? I argue that it does not and falls flat.

      Reply

  • Nick C

    August 1, 2023 at 4:39 pm

    I watched this looking for a B-movie thrill on a weekend, having no idea what I was about to get into.

    This movie woke me up. As a Christian, this scared me on a whole other level. You see, the thing with typical horror movies, no matter how disturbing, edgy or what-have-you is that somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that what you’re seeing isn’t actually reality. The truly terrifying thing about Nefarious, is that the doctrine is sound. The theology the demon spits back at the lawyer is True with a capital T. This IS happening. Everyday. As a Christian, I acknowledge that and if you believe what’s written, it’s undeniable.

    The demon describing the insidiousness of possession – It’s half millimeter concessions every other moment that add up over time. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Each iota is a victory for hell. Before you know it, you’re on the wrong side of the line. You’re so far past the line you’ve forgotten where it was and when someone points it out to you, the first instinct is to snap at them. If that’s not demonic possession, I don’t know what is.

    This movie has done a good thing. 3 days after seeing it, I’m re-evaluating my own life and looking for any small concessions I may be making in my own day-to-day life. How far off the path did I go without even realizing it? And THAT is what’s terrifying. I didn’t know it was happening.

    Amazing movie simply for that reason.

    Reply

  • JRog

    October 29, 2023 at 10:19 pm

    5 out of 5

    While I cannot say that I completely agree with all of your reviews, I appreciate what you are trying to do here.

    And with Nefarious, I largely agree. I recently watched it, twice. The dialogue is not perfect and I can see how viewers would find it preachy, particularly those with a worldview similar to James the psychiatrist. But the performances were spectacular. Going in, I really only knew of Jarrett LeMaster’s small part, and SPF playing the primary antagonist. But SPF and Belfi both played all characters with conviction.

    I also agree on Beck – that scene was distracting and out of place. I get the desire to have a post-script, but another round of script edits could have produced an even better film. That being said, this is still a good watch.

    Reply

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