The creators of Rogue Saints have constructed a rare find in Christian filmmaking. It isn't often that you can locate a pure comedy on Christian bookstore shelves, though plenty of dramas do include comic relief. The few attempts at pure comedy that I have seen haven't always been very funny. There's a big difference between something you grin whimsically at and something that makes you laugh out loud. Rogue Saints is definitely the latter.
This story follows two young men who join a church in order to steal an enormous diamond. The diamond was supposedly poured into the concrete of the church baptistery when they were kids. Nick (John Wu) is presumably a Christian, though his faith is tested by his wife's death, and Dylan (Jason Pead) is not Christian at all. So after a quick (and hilarious) training course for Dylan, they begin "working" in the church as maintenance crew. They dig, chip, and drill out the concrete support, while complications and conflicts try to throw them off course. The two persevere in their quest, however, as Dylan tries to fake his faith and Nick tries to bury his past. Both find a surprise in the church, and it isn't just the diamond.
Director Adam Lubanski and Writer David C. Brunk set out to make a film that addressed the glaring problem of isolation in our culture. Rather than creating a dreary film about disconnect, they wanted to take a proactive approach. They wanted the film to be fun, to have real characters, a real plot, and most of all, to be funny. And it succeeds. In fact, the best part about this film is that it jokes about church in the best possible way. It makes us laugh about the subtle nuances of our unspoken rules and how they may translate to newcomers. But it also highlights the way that Christians actually embrace people (believers and unbelievers) through churches.
Though this is their first film together, Lubanski and Brunk are not new to the film and entertainment industries. Lubanski, Creative Director and founder of Surround Media Inc., has worked on numerous (and I do mean numerous) blockbuster films, and for media giants like Microsoft, Google, Saumsung, Nickelodeon, HBO, Warner Brothers, Disney and American Idol. With over 20 years experience in the film industry, it's easy to understand why this movie catches your attention from the very first moment. Brunk, who describes himself as a "Serial Ministry Entrepreneur," also brings expertise in reaching large audiences. Serving as a missionary in the former USSR, Brunk founded a Christian music studio, TV shows that now reach more viewers than American Idol, the Worship Symposiums (training worship leaders in 20 countries), Christ for the Nations – Belarus, and From the Heart (the largest humanitarian organization in Belarus).
An interesting byproduct of making the film was the community that developed around the film itself. Shot mostly in Seattle, Lubanski said that over 600 volunteers worked faithfully over the course of three years to bring the film to fruition. Even now that it's complete, their marketing campaign promotes home viewing parties and offers free licensing for churches to show their congregations (for a limited time, of course). Not surprisingly, these two guys have found ways to build community beyond the message of the film itself.
I can't say the acting is the best I've ever seen, but it certainly holds its own and fares better than many Christian films. Plus, the script covers any acting issues with witty banter, well-placed comedy lines, and the use of visual elements. This film is clearly an audience favorite because it has spread like crazy through word-of-mouth, despite its minimal marketing budget. So, all things considered, I expect (and hope) that Rogue Saints will be a sleeper hit as word spreads.
Talking Points with Kids
Ages 0-5: Both Nick and Dylan learned something from being in the church. What did Nick learn? What did Dylan learn? How did the people of the church help share God's love with both of them?
Ages 6-12: Saints are usually considered good people who behave and do what they are supposed to do. Why do you think the authors of the film titled it "Rogue Saints" when the main characters were only there to steal a diamond? How do you think God sees people before they are saved, as saints or as rogues? How about after? Are the answers to these two questions different? Why or why not?
Ages 12+: This film tackles a serious problem with isolation in our culture. Do you think that most Americans are disconnected from one another, whether they feel like they are or not? If so, what causes that disconnect (being too busy, freedom to travel/move across the country, not visiting family regularly)? Do you think technology like iPhones, social media, and online gaming actually connect people more than they disconnect people? Try to present a good case for the opposite opinion on that answer (ie. if you said "no," try to make the case for "yes," or vice versa).