Some movies just annoy the shit out of ya, no matter the committed performances or intriguing mystery or batshit cool spinning dollies. Apostle is one of them, a would-be cult film about a cult in turn of the century England. Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen, as well as newcomers Bill Milner and Lucy Boynton, are believable as inhabitants of the dreary but homey village secluded from the world on a green island. Stevens is the intruder, a man possessed in rescuing his sister from the clutches of people who have taken her for ransom in light of some perceived form of treachery. They’re an uptight and violent bunch of faithfully deluded, a not uncommon combination, and they demand absolute fealty to their god. Their god is a mysterious force that, by the end, is both less mysterious and still unknowable, the writers content to let us stew in early 20th century milieu as a means for explaining why a wrathful god-like creature is just laying about the Welsh countryside. Such a vague brand of mythology works on occasion, and here it doesn’t, leaving the audience bewildered and unsatisfied as to why and how these magical happenings are…happening.
I’m not the most committed purveyor of spirituality or religiosity, but even I chafed at a message here that amounts to nothing more than religion bad! And committed as they might be, the actors are hamstrung by a plodding script and passive characters, surprising given the propulsive nature of their inherent conflict. So many times did I hurl my popcorn, figuratively of course, at the prospect of a lead protagonist merely sitting by, watching tragedy after tragedy befall his sister at the hands of these mongrels when his entire purpose for being there was to rescue her. Director Gareth Evans, of Raid fame, is a skilled craftsman and no doubt able to wing bone-crunching fisticuffs at the drop of a hat, but that does him no favors in a genre made special by curious oddities more than choreographed martial arts. Two things work without reservations: the aforementioned batshit cool spinning dolly shot that I don’t believe I’ve ever laid eyes on before, and a supporting ghoul of such creepy vigor that he alone almost made Apostle scary enough to recommend. Almost.