CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Film Review: Andy Garcia is Heroic, Story Isn’t in ‘For Greater Glory’
CHICAGO – “For Greater Glory” attempts to bring back the David Lean style epic – even recruiting Peter O’Toole from “Lawrence of Arabia” to participate – in the story of a Mexican religious war in the 1920s. While a sincere effort, it can’t match the story to the epic history. The cast includes Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria and Bruce Greenwood.
Without knowledge of this 20th century footnote, the premise of an atheist president outlawing the Catholic Church in Mexico seems impossible now, but that is what happened. The acting is mucho heartfelt, as the cast works diligently to portray an important piece of history. Andy Garcia strikes a perfect balance between his heroic stance and the conflict his character feels about religion in the first place, but the film is muddled and focuses on story elements that are not as compelling as the main conflict.
In 1920s post revolution Mexico, President Pultarco Calles (Ruben Blades) cracks down on the Catholic Church and religious freedom in general, fearing a conservative backlash to the new government. The laws are heavily enforced, priests are exiled from their parishes and mass is forbidden to be said. When a peaceful protest proves fruitless, and the government starts executing dissenters, armed civil war begins within the country.
The war quickly becomes personal. Young teenager José Luis Sanchez (Mauricio Kurl) witnesses the execution of Father Christopher (Peter O’Toole) and vows to fight with the rebels. General Gorostieta (Andy Garcia) reluctantly is recruited into the conflict, despite the protests of his wife (Eva Longoria) and lack of religious conviction. As the casualties pile up, the United States gets involved, as Mexican Ambassador Dwight Morrow (Bruce Greenwood) intervenes with the president. Despite the knifepoint of the Federal troops, historic progress is made by the willingness of the Cristeros (soldiers of Christ) to continue battling for their freedom to worship.
Photo credit: Hana Matsumoto for ARC Entertainment