‘Godspeed’ opens with our main character Charlie Shepard (Joseph McKelheer) running through the woods all bloodies up, being chased by some dude with a rifle. But that’s near the end of the story. One of the reasons I think we got a shot of that is to let us know, as we watch this dialog heavy, slow moving film, that something exciting is eventually going to happen. You just have to wait for it. It’s coming.
So we track back a bit, wondering why this guy was running for his life through these Alaskan woods and we see Charlie in one of those Old Tyme Religion settings having one of those good ol’ fashion old time religious faith healing sessions. Charlie knows how to preach and Charlie knows how to put on a good show, but after he’s finished with this one particular old woman stricken with emphysema, it’s looking to us that Charlie doesn’t know how to heal.
Back home Charlie has a spirited, albeit profane alcohol and tobacco filled conversation with his wife Rebecca (Jessie Ward). Something happened a while back which has caused Charlie to honestly believe he can heal folks, but Rebecca has had enough and feels its time to move off this folly. Having heard enough of this bitching, Charlie exits stage left to spend some quality time with the neighborhood whore (Lynn A. Freedman). This whore to me is one of the more interesting characters in this movie. First she’s inquisitive towards her clients in a way I didn’t think prostitutes really gave a damn about, and secondly she seems to be the only prostitute in this town which means she probably stays pretty busy.
Regardless, while Charlie was out whoring a couple of young men paid a visit to his home and murder his wife and child. From that point on Charlie Shepard is a total mess.
Maybe a year later we see that Charlie spends most of his time drunk, living in his trailer, editing the bible and verbally abusing the local law enforcement for their failure in finding out who murdered his family. Then one day a very young woman named
Sarah (Courtney Halverson) shows up. Apparently Charlie helped her mother through her cancer a little while back. He didn’t heal her, but he helped, and Sarah would like Charlie to help her father who hasn’t recovered from the death of his wife. Charlie is reticent at first, but he eventually comes around and makes the long trip further up north to help this pretty, innocent and sincere child. Then he meets this child’s brother Luke (Cory Knauf). Luke has issues. He doesn’t like Charlie for one, has his own special views on religion and also seems to like his baby sister just a little too much. It won’t take Charlie long to realize that something is terribly wrong with this family he’s visiting as a series of unfortunate events bring us right back where we started, Charlie running through the woods, all bloodied up, being chased by someone with a rifle.
‘Godspeed’, title changed from the more descriptive ‘Bloody Revenge’, is a movie that is so beautiful to look at it almost had you wanting you to catch a bi-plane and go moose hunting with Sarah Palin. ‘Godspeed’ is also a movie that is very well acted and has a story driving it that that for the most part is unique, and that is something is that rare and something that I don’t get to say that often.
So why didn’t I enjoy ‘Godspeed’ more? Part of it is possibly because of the dialog that comes out of some of these characters mouths in this movie. Not how the actors said this dialog but more accurately what was being said. For instance there was one particular scene when the character of Sarah was telling the character of Charlie how she felt about him. Her soliloquy, which is what it was, was poetic and felt almost Shakespearean. It also felt completely unnatural, out of place and staged. Courtney Halverson delivered this speech with passion and conviction but actually who speaks like this? Particularly in a movie centered around bloody revenge, a movie filled with murder, death, rape, and folks getting their heads bashed in with rocks. The inquisitive prostitute is another example of something that I don’t think a particular character, a whore in this case, would actually say. When the characters are actually talking to each other, say like when Charlie is arguing with his wife, the dialog works but when the characters are off giving speeches while looking off in the distance, it just didn’t work at all for me. Veteran actor Ed Lauter gave one these speeches and his seemed to work better coming from him, possibly because it was Ed Lauter delivering it, playing a character he’s played a thousand times before, but his worked.
A byproduct of the sermonizing in this film gives us a movie that moves very slowly. Now if you aren’t bothered by these lengthy speeches as I was, or better yet found them engrossing and relevant, then the slow pace probably won’t affect you as much because this dialog will mean more to you. Some of the slowness can also be attributed to the loving shots of the Alaskan fauna which was effective in creating a sense of loneliness and isolation that almost all of these characters were stricken with.
There are some good things in this movie ‘Godspeed’ with the fine performances, a solid narrative, some shocking violence and director Robert Saitzyk’s confident command of his camera and what he wants his audience to see. But some of the dialog and the way it was constructed kept me from completely embracing this movie as much as I would’ve like to.