Movie Review: “The Word” Suffers From A Hackneyed Script


Review by James McDonald

A man’s otherwise perfect life is destroyed when his son is kidnapped and murdered. He finds himself torn between avenging his son’s death and moving on with his now hollow existence.

“The Word” is a movie that tries too hard to be good and that’s difficult when your whole film relies upon a script that is mediocre at best. It does try, several times, to rise above conventional and while there are a few moments here and there of what could have been, sadly, it sinks back down again into mediocrity. The film centers on Tom Hawkins (Kevin O’Donnell), a high-powered executive who has quickly climbed the corporate ladder and is doing very well for himself and his young son Kevin (Vincent Pavonetti). One day, while at the mall, Tom meets a work colleague and momentarily takes his eyes off Kevin but that’s all it takes before he goes missing. Later on, he is informed by the police that he was kidnapped and eventually killed.

As the case advances, the police inform Tom that they have their suspicions that his son’s murder was not random, rather, it was a human sacrifice performed by a secret cult who are part of the Olmec religion, in correlation to the Aztec calendar. One of their agents is working undercover to infiltrate the group and they are finally able to break the cult’s code, which gives them the next date when a sacrifice must be offered up but they realize they only have a few days before another child is kidnapped and murdered. Secret cults and human sacrifice are nothing new in movies, see “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, “The Wicker Man” and “Rosemary’s Baby” for some far superior offerings, no pun intended.

When Tom is made aware that a man who confessed to the kidnapping is in police custody, he stops at nothing to find out who is behind the killings so he can take his revenge but he quickly realizes that this secret cult has people from all walks of life and that some of them, those around him and in his life, may very well be a part of it too. The film has all the accouterments of a good movie but it’s in the antiquated script where it all falls apart. There is never any real tension and at times, when the film strives for apprehension or trepidation, it just comes off as laughable. Kevin O’Donnell has good screen presence but he is just unable to fulfill the role of a grieving father successfully.

The one location in the entire movie that was actually creepy.

The one location in the entire movie that was actually creepy.

In a scene where he spends some time alone with the body of his deceased son before the funeral, he goes through the motions of a despondent and mournful father but you never fully believe that that’s what he’s actually feeling. He stands there, all shook up, touching his son’s face and overwhelmed by grief, he buries his head in the coffin where we can hear him crying and we can see his shoulders moving and this gives the effect of crying but when he raises his head, there are no tears. This happens frequently throughout the movie, he constantly buries his head in his hands so we can’t see him physically grieve and by doing so, he proves that he just cannot bring forth, the appropriate emotions that are so desperately needed in order for the viewer to be affected.

Other characters try too hard to be whatever the script requires of them: angry cop, understanding therapist, grieving best friend but their performances all come off as exaggerated. After the funeral, when people pass by Tom to give their condolences, not one of them is in any way believable. Some look like they’re crying but again, there are no tears and watching someone pretending to cry, is just plain embarrassing. In order for a film to succeed, the acting has to work, on every level and when it appears that almost all of your actors are trying way too hard to achieve their desired result, it’s time to get a new casting director. After all, when you go to a movie, it’s the characters you go to see, to bond with and to become friends with.

As the movie approaches its impotent finale, the film throws one last twist at us and instead of being genuinely surprised, ala “The Sixth Sense”, it comes so far out of left field, that it just doesn’t work, it was like the filmmakers tried to catch us off guard and hope our jaws would hit the ground with shock and dismay with the big final reveal. Well, my jaw did hit the ground, with plenty of shock and dismay but not for the reasons that they were hoping for. In the end, the movie doesn’t work for a multitude of things: bad script, forced acting and in some scenes, bad audio. I felt like I was watching a rough cut of the movie and not the finished version. By the time the film is released, I hope for everyone’s sake involved with the movie, that the audio is fixed because sadly, it’s the only aspect of the entire film that can be.

In select theaters August 22nd

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James McDonald
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