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The Independent Critic

Eric Roberts, Corey Feldman, Jeffrey S.S. Johnson, Veronica Rodriguez, Vincent Irizarry
Jenn Page
Jason Horton
90 Mins.
Core Faith Media

 "Worth" Talks About Real World Salvation 

There is a growing movement within the faith-based film community dedicated to presenting faith through a grittier and more, one could say, "realistic" lens. This movement has its detractors, of course. There are those who say that faith-based films should be "set apart" from the everyday Hollywood scene. While they don't necessarily oppose faith-based films dealing with everyday issues, there are those within the faith-based community who believe that to go too far into "realism" is to compromise the essential message of the gospel.

For most of the major players in the faith-based community, to cross that undefined line is unthinkable. For those in the indie community, and those who do lean towards grittier faith-based cinema are generally in the indie scene, the commitment continues and audiences are more and more giving these films a chance. In fact, mass retailer Wal-Mart has become a major player in the scene with their growing willingness to carry these films.

Worth: The Testimony of Johnny St. James is a film that is both inspired deeply by faith and by the harsh realities of everyday living. Johnny (Jeffrey S.S. Johnson) has descended into full blown alcoholism, at least partially the result of ten years of unresolved rage and grief that followed the death of his wife and unborn child at the hands of a drunk driver. Having bottomed out, Johnny agrees to attend his first AA meeting with a longtime friend (Eric Roberts) by his side. When he enters the meeting and makes a discovery that changes all his plans.

While on the surface it sounds like Worth could end up being just another run-of-the-mill faith-based flick that means well but has no basis in reality, you can rest assured that director Jenn Page and screenwriter Jason Horton have fashioned an involving film that far transcends the grittiness one usually finds in faith-based films without compromise its essential messages about forgiveness and hope. Horton, historically a more action-oriented screenwriter, has stepped into the faith-based arena in fine fashion by creating characters who feel authentic both in their flaws and in their faith.

It helps that Page has cast Jeffrey S.S. Johnson in the lead, an actor who manages to elicit sympathy even as his actions in the film deteriorate to what some might call "the point of no return." Johnson's rage feels real, especially for a Dove-approved film, and his heartbreak is, well, absolutely heartbreaking. Eric Roberts, in what amounts to a relatively brief appearance, shines as always and takes what could have easily been a stock character and fleshes him out quite nicely. As a washed up party animal who acknowledges still wanting desperately to drink years after his sobriety started, Corey Feldman makes a strong impact before disappearing from the film far too quickly.

Worth often feels like a stage production, perhaps mostly owing to the fact that the vast majority of the action takes place in 1-2 fairly basic settings. The film is devoid of special effects, focusing instead on Horton's insightful dialogue and the ever shifting relationships between the film's players.

Worth will be available on DVD beginning in November 2012 in Wal-Mart stores and other retail and online outlets. Fans of honest, gritty and real life faith-based cinema will find much to appreciate, and while Horton and Paige do keep it real and gritty there's also nothing of an offensive nature that would turn away traditional faith-based audiences. That said, the film's convincing drama and psychological thrills should also give it quite a bit of cross-over appeal.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic