February 5, 2019 Purgatory Road (Movie Review)
Many people can pinpoint one pivotal event in their lives that dictated the path they are currently on. For the fortunate, those events are positive, and a life of happiness follows. The unfortunate ones, though, can become haunted by the event that might have only lasted for seconds. This is especially true when children witness something traumatic. It can shape the entire trajectory of their lives if they cannot forgive themselves. This all in mind, comes the Mark Savage (Sensitive New Age Killer 2000, Stressed to Kill 2016) directed Purgatory Road, a film where forgiveness is key.
Set for a screening on February 7th out in Los Angeles, CA, Purgatory Road will become available on Blu-ray and DVD as of Tuesday, February 12th thanks to Unearthed Films. The story follows Vincent Kirby (Michael Lebeau) who, as a young boy, was awoke in the middle of the night and found a woman in the process of stealing his father’s cash nest egg. Either from shock of the intruder, or because of his young age, he did not do anything to stop the thief.
The loss of all of his money drove Vincent’s father, Alvin Kirby (Chace Beck: Meltdown 2014, Craig Quits His Day Job 2016), to shoot himself. Tragic, as a result, both Vincent and his brother Michael (Jacob Craig Bullock: The Tale 2018, Replicate 2019) were witness to this event and deeply impacted. Now, many years later, Vincent (Gary Cairns: Malignant 2013, Daylight’s End 2016) is a rogue Catholic priest operating his own church out of a grimy, crudely painted van in the rural south.
Father Vincent has an affinity for taking confession. He has no issues forgiving every sin and sinner; except for those who confess to stealing. Thieves deserve the ultimate penance of death dealt by the Father’s own hands. It is his calling. Michael (Luke Albright: Burn Notice 2007, Devil’s Pass 2013) remains at his brother’s side operating their church, collecting the monetary donations, and disposing of the bodies. Psychotic killer Mary Francis (Trista Robinson: The Human Race 2013, Silent Retreat 2016) stumbles upon the brothers and is immediately drawn to their operation. Her sudden inclusion into the duo’s lives creates a riff and chain of events that confessions and brotherly love might not be able to absolve.
There is something inherently intriguing when people insist that whatever they are doing is because of a higher calling. Is it really a calling? Or is it an overreaction to an event the person experienced. In the case of this film, Vincent clearly became a priest with his mission to punish thieves after his perceived failure as a child to protect his family. It is his calling that he hides behind to justify the crimes and murders he commits. Craig’s Vincent is brilliantly passionate about his righteousness to the point that the viewer can almost empathize with his actions. It is easily seen how deep his failures shook him to his core and why he feels that death is the only appropriate way to punish thieves. It is a way to avenge his dad as he once was, not the dad he ultimately became. It is haunting to think that this priest somehow believes through money and murder his “ultimate sin” will be washed away by both God and hid dad. He is both a man yet still a child as his irrational actions and beliefs display. This is the genius of this character.
Albright’s Michael is the believable brother who is complicit in the crimes out of familial obligation. At times, Albright does come across as somewhat numb, but this makes complete sense for the character. He is essentially his brother’s whipping boy and has been for a long time. Michael takes abuse verbal and physical and shoves it down because he loves his brother. The character has just as much depth as Vincent’s, just in a much quieter space. Where Vincent is loud and quick to act, Michael is quiet and almost meek. Michael’s Purgatory involves being stuck between family first and the ability to move on with his own life. He must hide his affection for the cute waitress, Ruby (Sylvia Grace Crim: Big Significant Things 2014, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 2017), as she represents a path away from Vincent. The complexities of this character alone, though subtle is this film’s best argument for a viewing.
Robinson’s Mary Francis is supposed to be this sexy killer that the viewer knows is an awful person but are drawn to anyway. This is evident by the character’s inexplicable choice of calling a talk radio host and describing her blood thirsty trysts in between fits of giggles to an adoring audience. Picture a cheesy amateur porno; only no penetration. Sexy and exciting she is not. Her pseudo cutesy baby talk voice is like nails on a chalk board. The negative affect immediately takes the viewer outside of the film and will struggle to find a way back in completely. She pouts, carries a stuffed bear, loves sex, and kills people. The character plays like a cheap attempt to knock off the iconic Harley Quinn, only neither sexy nor convincing, or even that interesting. A catalyst is definitely needed to progress the brother’s relationship and move the plot forward. The choice of Mary Francis was not the correct one, though; so much so that it is difficult to tell whether it is the cause of the direction or the casting.
Events will happen in life, good and bad. That is exactly what life is. It is messy, unsettling, intense, and painful; sometimes all at once creating a chaos that could be great, but sometimes it just is not. That is the best description of Purgatory Road. While there are a few flashes of brilliance, for the most part, the viewer will feel like they are somehow stuck in Purgatory atoning for their own sins. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Purgatory Road 2.5 out of 5 stars.