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Cash-strapped magnate touched by homeless boy

Ryan O’Quinn in “Believe” (2016)
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“Believe”

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG for violence, mature themes and mild epithets.

Running time: 118 minutes

Distributor: Power of 3

It’s late November in Grundy, Virginia, a tiny town whose economy revolves around Peyton Automotive, a family business inherited by Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) from his late grandfather. Because the company has fallen on hard times in recent days, the overwhelmed CEO is considering cancelling the annual Christmas pageant the corporation has sponsored since the Seventies.

In fact, Matthew finds himself being pressured by his financial advisor, Albert Bagley (Kevin Sizemore) either to lay off or lower the salaries of some of his 115 employees. Needless to say, the prospect of cutbacks doesn’t sit well with union rep Bob Alexander (James C. Burns) who proceeds to call for a strike.

Matthew, in turn, testifies before Grundy’s City Council that he can no longer afford to stage the holiday festival because the funds in the trust have been totally exhausted. Trouble is, his grandfather’s specifically stipulated in his will that Peyton Automotive must continue the tradition.

Nevertheless, Matthew asserts that the business has been losing money for a couple of years and that, given the situation, he has no choice but to shut it down. Meanwhile, he’s warned by the Mayor (Lance E. Nichols), “You keep going in this direction, you will get crucified.”

Soon enough, Matthew finds himself the victim of escalating violence. First his BMW is egged and has a tire slashed, before being torched entirely. Then, he’s beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead by a gang of union goons.

Coming to his rescue is a most unlikely hero, a precocious homeless kid named CJ Joseph (Issaac Ryan Brown). CJ and his mom Sharon (Danielle Nicolet) nurse Matthew back to health while giving him a priceless lesson about what really matters most in life.

For, despite their dire circumstances, the Josephs both fervently believe that better days are coming. “I wish I had that kind of faith,” Matthew admits. Upon recovering, the grateful heir informs Sharon and son that “You took care of me, now I’ll take care of you.”

That is the point of departure of “Believe,” a modern morality play marking the feature film directorial debut of Billy Dickson. Although the picture is ostensibly aimed at the Christian demographic, it has a complicated enough storyline, including a love triangle and intriguing plot twists, to appeal to more than merely Bible-thumping Evangelicals.

A thought-provoking parable as entertaining as it is a message movie.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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