Studio: Vivendi Entertainment
Director: Justin Price
Writer: Justin Price
Producer: Harold ‘Ha-G’ Hardamon, Khu
Stars: Steven Brand, Kyler Willett, Lassiter Holmes, Rachele Brooke Smith, Eric Roberts, Perla Rodriguez, Cameron White, Elyssia Gonzalez, Danny Trejo
A secret order of the church devoted to battling demonic possession works to stop the rise of a dangerous hellspawn.
Typecasting is an unfortunate side effect of success in the acting profession. Perform as well as expected and fans will see you as that character for the rest of your career. No one should have his/her livelihood limited because of a misperception about what roles someone can or cannot play based on appearance and previous portrayals. Yet the reality is that films create fantasy. One of the requisite building blocks of that fantasy rests with the audience to suspend their disbelief. And this in turn requires that audience to accept the cast as the characters onscreen. The fact remains that no one is ever going to accept Steve Buscemi as a star NFL quarterback or Arnold Schwarzenegger as a ballet instructor. Another easy add to that list is Danny Trejo as a Catholic priest, yet “The Cloth” tries it anyway.
Luckily for believability’s sake, although not so lucky for Trejo fans, the “Machete” star appears onscreen in “The Cloth” in just two scenes that barely comprise four minutes. So if you plan on seeing the film to bask in his unique screen presence, save yourself the effort. Rivaling Danny Trejo for screen time disproportionate to title billing prominence is Eric Roberts. As a matter of fact, the time it took to read to this point in the review is longer than the total screen time that includes a Trejo or Roberts appearance. That is not an exaggeration.
“The Cloth” is a little bit like “Blade: Trinity” without the quips of Ryan Reynolds or the attractiveness of Jessica Biel to distract from the mediocrity of the script. The group being referenced by the film’s title is a secret sect of the church devoted to battling demonic possession. Existing for centuries to protect the planet from the evils of Hell, their purpose is so important that its core members are a monotone priest, a personality-less librarian, and an emo-esque pretty boy who stands in as The Cloth’s version of James Bond’s Q.
Rounding out the group’s ranks is new recruit Jason. Like everyone else in The Cloth’s motley crew, his characterization is flatter than the Earth of the Middle Ages. Jason is introduced in a scene where he picks up a one-night stand while displaying a shoulder-shrugging take it or leave it attitude. He is so lifeless and unappealing as the movie’s lead character that the boat is already sunk before it leaves the dock.
To call the acting in “The Cloth” wooden would be an insult to marionettes and the lumber aisle at Home Depot. The marquee names might have been able to make a difference, but they have so few lines and so little to do that they hardly register at all.
There is no polite way to say it. The dialogue is awful. Try not to laugh when a country hayseed exclaims, “well good grief, baby” to his girlfriend as a man forces him to abruptly stop his truck. The actor stumbles over the line and even repeats it a second time, just in case you thought you could not possibly have heard something so silly the first time.
An even greater groaner is, “everyone dies. Not everyone lives.” That line passes for profundity, as “The Cloth” repeats the lame phrase again later in the film. And when the lead character uses liquid from a flask bearing a cross to repel a demon that subsequently sizzles to death, it is plainly obvious what happened without the character needlessly adding, “that’s holy water.”
The lighting could be described as blindingly overexposed, except that it is not really lighting. It is more like the camera pointing directly at the sun, a bright window, or any light source without regard for how it blows out the frame or affects the picture. Unfortunately, the action scenes are all too visible, right down to every listless hop and feigned punch.
IMDB reports a budget of $4,000,000. Someone should audit that finance spreadsheet. “The Cloth” is loaded wall-to-wall with digital FX that would not have been impressive on syndicated television in the early 1990’s. Their implementation is sloppy. Characters pop out of existence from one frame to the next. Shadows are positioned incorrectly, highlighting the animation layers. An actor’s hair length changes from one shot to the next. So many details are overlooked in the production that it is difficult to guess where the focus might have actually been.
Anyone in search of a Christmas gift for the filmmakers should go with an atlas. When a demon rises from the ground early in the film, he begins a walk past a sign indicating 1,000 miles to El Paso, Texas. Depending on the direction, this would place the sign in Mississippi, Montana, or somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Exactly how big do they think Texas is?
To go on any further about the film’s faults would be shooting fish in a barrel. Somewhere along the line, “The Cloth” may have started with a decent idea and good intentions. But it did not have the production tools to bring that idea to life, and seemingly spent its resources on name actors it barely even used. This review can be summarized in one brief, simple sentence. “The Cloth” is not a good film. And frankly, that is the mildest way to put it.
NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.
Review Score: 20