Gone is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen all year; a fundamentalist fun park of fanaticism, holy devotion, and scare tactics so obscene and overwrought that I couldn’t help but rock back and forth with delight. It’s one of the most overtly Christian films ever made, and while that can often be dry and uneventful, this film understands that if you’re going to preach for an hour and a half, you’d better throw in some suspense, action, and a few gunfights for good measure. Director Tim Chey may not live up to the promise of the DVD case (“Director Chey is the Quentin Tarantino of Christian film”), but he’s one helluva showman, even if his vision is patently ridiculous. This is a film that takes shape as a classic noir (world-weary narration, a cynical leading man), and gives us visual effects that are surprisingly effective for a direct-to-video release. The acting is, as expected, wooden (though earnest), and the dialogue a series of Bible phrases, pleadings, and absurdities, but I’ll be damned if the thing didn’t move along at a decent clip. Disgusted? Yes. Insulted? By all means. Bored? Not for one moment.
Gone concerns the plight of one Bill Hampton, a cocky lawyer who is vying to be made partner, and is first seen with his pals as they arrive in Manila, Philippines, to serve a nasty corporate client who has unapologetically polluted various rivers and streams. His friend Jay Nelson is equally nasty, and proves it by mocking poor people, ridiculing Christians, and remaining cold in the face of a suffering child. And then there’s Dean, a thoughtful young man who doesn’t believe, but starts to accept God as the signs of the rapture increase. Suddenly, the TV reports a 9.6 earthquake in San Francisco, leaving over 20,000 dead. Perhaps I’m paranoid, but I’m taken by the film’s first choice for catastrophe. One can only assume that the thousands of bodies are either homosexuals or those supportive of gay marriage. Bill then begins a truly bizarre monologue in which he says that media consolidation and Bill Gates are signs that the end is nigh. In fact, through some ancient code, Gates’ name can be translated as “666.” He even pulls out a magazine featuring the world’s richest man, who just happens to be Asian. Oh, and he just might be the anti-Christ. What happened to the 30-ish Jewish male promised by Jerry Falwell?
At the twenty-four minute mark, the rapture hits, which is exactly what that blind lunatic by the water said would happen. People disappear (shafts of light streak towards the sky), leaving only their clothes behind (though no undergarments, curiously enough). Blood begins flowing from faucets, the sea turns red, and bowling ball-size hail falls from the sky. Water immediately becomes a prized resource, and armed bands roam the land in search of food. As we watch rioting, mass shootings, and chaos, Bill states, “We were livin’ la vida loca……in hell!” I defy you to find a more memorable line from the year in film. Jay suddenly disappears without explanation, and because he’s not mentioned by any of the characters, one is immediately clued in to his eventual importance. I had my suspicions, but I’d have to wait. Bill and Dean continue on with local tart Helen, who herself no longer believes in God because “He” took her husband and son in a bus accident. As the journey continues, however, and the situation becomes even more dire, she starts to look to the heavens for solace. Eventually, the trio manage to steal a tank, elude heavily armed soldiers, and make their way to a massive cross that overlooks the city. It is here, Bill insists, that a helicopter will come to take them to safety. How does he know this? Because he’s a tool of the devil, you fools!
The big mountaintop finale deserves to be remembered so long as cinema exists, although I fear it will remain one of those things only those foolish enough to rent from a local Hollywood Video will ever understand. As the music on the soundtrack becomes more ominous and the skies darken, the big secret is revealed: Jay and Bill are servants of the anti-Christ, who is that same Asian business tycoon mentioned earlier. Bill rips off his shirt, revealing not only a rippled chest and sweaty abs, but an evil tattoo that may or may not be a bar code. As he roars at Dean for his stupidity, Jay departs the helicopter and launches into a masterful speech that reveals how disturbed the fundamentalist set truly is:
“It took as much faith to believe in science as it did God! Science has never disproven the Bible, no matter how hard they’ve tried. If man really evolved from apes, what are they still doing here? Think, man! We concocted the entire theory to throw you off! The top ten inventions were invented by Christians! You know what we invented? Casinos, pornography, terrorism, barking dogs, car alarms…..the Super Bowl on Super Sunday! To distract you from the Lord’s Sabbath! And the lawsuit….You know what I really love? When Christians sue other Christians! Hahahaha!!! (evil cackle) Hahahahaha!! (sinister close-up) Hahahahaha!!! (more cackling).”
As Dean stares ahead with incredulity, Helen screams, and is shot in the abdomen by a smiling Jay. Bill and Jay fly away with their Dark Lord, while Dean and Helen walk off into the hills. Several miles later (remember, Helen is bleeding like a stuck pig), she announces her belief that, “One can only be redeemed through the blood of Christ.” She professes her love, whispers a greeting to her family, and then expires. By this time, Dean is on top of the huge cross and as expected, shouts at God to take him away. Lightning hits, the sky turns red, and the love of God wins the day, albeit after billions have perished horribly. A quote from Jeremiah then fills the screen and just as my finger was about to hit stop, the film returned to Bill, waking up from a dream. What, even here, in this holiest of places? Was the shaggy-dog ending doomed to ruin my fun? Never fear, for Bill walks to the bathroom, turns on the faucet, and with the third dip of his hands under the rushing water, pulls back the blood of the damned. Tis real, o ye of little faith.
Again, as much as every moment of this film was an assault on reason, intellect, and good sense (and further proof that Christians are scary motherfuckers), it would be disingenuous to suggest that it was a waste of time. I laughed out loud at least five times, smiled on several other occasions, and even backtracked a few times to listen to a particularly riotous line of dialogue. At only 74 minutes, it understood the impatience and short attention span of its audience, and didn’t bother with back-story or unnecessary subplots. Introduce us to the assholes, end the world, and let the bastards repent and join their savior. Clean, clear, efficient. How refreshing! And talk about a lesson in right-wing Jesus freakdom. These people are inherently suspicious of education, believe science to a plot of the devil, and continue to throw out the silly notion that evolution must be false because apes no longer evolve into human beings (even though Darwin never said that men evolved from apes; rather, we share a common ancestor). As for atheists, well, they are surely misguided sinners who gave up God out of frustration and personal tragedy. What else could it be? And what better way to establish a character’s evil than to say he “sleeps with a lot of girls?” And so my dear readers, ignore this film at your peril. It’s what moves Red America. It’s also the handbook of a large chunk of the current administration, including the President of the United States. It’s them. And we’ve been warned.