Never has the road to the priesthood been paved with so many drunk drivers, foul-mouth outbursts or nasty motorcycle collisions than in Mark Wahlberg’s partly self-funded real-life drama.
After succumbing to a serious injury, Stuart ‘Stu’ Long (Wahlberg) turns his back on a patchy amateur boxing career and sets his sights on becoming a Hollywood leading man. Executing this unlikely plan begins with a job as a supermarket butcher – because even talent-spotting producers enjoy a good steak, right? Instead, there’s a chance encounter with a Catholic Sunday school teacher (Narcos: Mexico’s Teresa Ruiz) that leaves him smitten. She, less so.
Forever punching above his weight, the reformed bad boy attempts to woo her by attending Mass, but it isn’t until surviving a near-death motorcycle accident that he finds his true calling to become a priest; a decision that is met by staunch resistance from his family and the Church.
It gets stuck in a purgatory of daddy issues and Sunday service pamphlets
Accompanied by a colourful rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, Wahlberg takes to his trademark role of misfit with a heart of gold like a clenched fist to a 12oz Everlast glove. Around him, though, is an uneven gumbo of religion and family turmoil. There are a few effective scenes where Father Stu’s life-battered hero inspires those around him, but too often it reduces him to second-fiddle to the one-liners and tired monologues of his estranged father (Mel Gibson) and sceptical mother (Jacki Weaver).
Well-intentioned but ultimately mishandled, it commits the cardinal sin of indecisiveness, middling out in a purgatory of daddy issues and Sunday service pamphlets.
In UK and US cinemas now.