REVELATION ROAD: THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Lead actor David A.R. White also produces the film. White is perhaps the nearest the evangelical movement has to an actor who has gained fame in this niche market. White did have a mainstream acting career in the 1990s appearing as a regular on tvs Evening Shade (1990-4) and even one genre film Murdercycle (1999). Since the early 2000s though, White has exclusively specialised in Christian films both behind and in front of the camera, having written Hidden Secrets (2006), Jerusalem Countdown (2011), Brother White (2012), and several other Rapture/End Times films with Six: The Mark Unleashed, In the Blink of an Eye (2009) and The Mark: Redemption (2013), as well as directing and usually starring in Holyman Undercover (2010), The Encounter (2010), Me Again (2012), The Book of Esther (2013) and Redeemed (2014). He has also produced/starred in a great many other Christian films, including The Moment After (1999), another Rapture film that spawned a series, The Visitation, Marriage Retreat (2011) and the Gods Not Dead films, among others. Director Gabriel Sabloff has also made a number of other films produced by White, including Apostle Peter and the Last Supper (2012), The Book of Daniel (2013) and What Would Jesus Do? The Journey Continues (2015).
Multi-film series have become all the rage in the 2010s from Twilight and The Hunger Games series to the stretching of a single book out into multiple films with The Hobbit and Atlas Shrugged series. Revelation Road is the interesting case of an original rather than adapted series that has been intended that way from the outset, of which The Beginning of the End is the first instalment and was followed by Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire (2013) and The Black Rider: Revelation Road (2014), both also from director Gabriel Soloff and starring David A.R. White.
While you admire Revelation Roads ambition, this does result in some dramatic problems when it comes to The Beginning of the End. One of these is the more extruded form of storytelling. If you compare The Beginning of the End to Left Behind and most of the other Rapture films, they get the central event over and done with fairly soon into the show whereas this has it happen right at the end. Thus much of the film is mundanely centred around David A.R. White and his encounters with a biker gang, while every so often in the background crashing lightning presages something ominous about to happen. The central dramatic event of the film The Rapture only occurs at the very end and you feel that everything else is the sort of prelude, like the couple of chapters that introduce us to the main character before events go sideways that you would get in a Stephen King novel. You ask yourself, if Revelation Road were made the standard way as a standalone film with sequels dependent on its financial success, would there be enough here to inspire audiences to want more? Is the issue of David A.R. Whites almost certain conversion to Christianity or even the question of his suppressed past enough that leaves you burning to see how this will play out?
On the plus side, Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End is probably a better Christian film than any of the Left Behind series. If nothing else, it has a story that happens on an ordinary human level rather than feels churned out by thriller writers and/or interspersed with Biblical sermons. There is some nice writing like the scene where David A.R. White goes to a woman in a neighbouring motel room, offering help after hearing her fighting with her husband, only for her to ask for some money and he assume she is a junkie, before her two children come in and he realises his assumption was wrong, that they really are starving. There is a certain moderate mysteriousness and awe to the scenes where The Rapture happens and the souls of people everywhere are taken up in glowing light effects.
The film does have some odd messages. Apparently, David A.R. Whites sole job as a salesman is to sell bulletproof vests. Ray Wise does ask the intriguing question of whether White would place his and his familys life in the bulletproof vest or The Lord to protect them. It later becomes apparent that the answer is the former or at least God is also on the side of those who maintain a well-stocked home arsenal and Second Amendment right to bear arms when we see Ray Wise defending himself against armed intruders (as opposed to being reliant on divine intervention to protect him). Equally, the news broadcasts buy into the great conservative alarmism that Iran is imminently about to attack the US.
David A.R. White is well cast if you wanted a hero type who projected guileless honesty, it would be hard to find anybody who better fills the shoes than he. These Christian films make a habit of casting B-list actors who need the cash. In this case, they have lucked on Ray Wise. I have no idea about Wises personal beliefs but ones own memory of him will always be as Leland Palmer possessed by Bob and the rapist/murderer of his own daughter in tvs Twin Peaks (1990-1) thus it becomes a little hard to try and stretch your head around the idea of Leland Palmer now as an ordinary guy offering homespun wisdom and earnestly opining the Christian message. The film also toplines Eric Roberts who only appears in about two scenes as the sheriff, while his wife Eliza also plays a few more scenes than that as Ray Wises wife.