Jason Castro (center) in Black Easter (Photo: Timed Out Productions)

★★½ (out of four)
STARS Donny Boaz, Morgan Roberts

Jesus meets the Terminator in Black Easter, a faith-based film which, despite its flaws, manages to be less sanctimonious and more entertaining than many movies in this field.

Ram Goldstein (Morgan Roberts), an atheistic scientist, works alongside his Christian girlfriend Amy (Ilsa Levine), the jovial Simon (Lamar Usher), and the jittery Felix (Cesar D’ La Torre) for a Middle Eastern entrepreneur named Ahmed (Gerardo Davila). Ram manages to create a teleportation device (alas, no flies allowed in the lab), but with a little tinkering, he upgrades it into a time machine. Having learned that Ahmed is a Muslim extremist who planned to use the teleportation device to facilitate terrorist bombings, Ram is even more perturbed when discovering the zealot now plans to use the time machine to send someone back through history to kill Jesus (former American Idol contestant Jason Castro) before the Crucifixion and Resurrection take place and thus prevent Christianity from ever taking hold. To carry out this assignment, Ahmed chooses Brandt (Donny Boaz), a Christian who lost his faith after his wife and daughters were killed in a fiery car crash and who is now seeking some holy payback.

Yes, it’s absurd, although no more so than many of the time-travel flicks that have preceded it. Writer-director Jim Carroll is nothing if not ambitious, with Ram and co. zooming to the past and then back to the future with alarming regularity. (This is the sort of movie that employs ample voice-over narration as well as written signposts on the order of “BACK TO 2029: LAB 1 — 30 MINUTES EARLIER.”) Carroll might have been a bit too ambitious, as it’s often hard to keep track of who’s doing what and when and where and why — compared to this, the likes of Avengers: Endgame and 12 Monkeys seem almost as streamlined and straightforward as any given episode of Gilligan’s Island. It’s confusing enough that, from a narrative standpoint, a major character I thought was killed during one timeline manages to turn up again, although I admittedly might have missed a jump or two in there.

Morgan Roberts in Black Easter (Photo: Timed Out Productions)

The cast is uniformly fine, all residing well above rank amateurism but also several degrees below consummate professionalism. Boaz fares best as the tortured Brandt, and all the others hit their marks as required. The character of Ahmed initially confused me because this was clearly a Hispanic man, not a Middle Eastern one; no surprise to later learn that the actor, Gerardo Davila, is Mexican.

Originally released under the title Assassin 33 A.D. before Carroll recalled it for some minor tinkering, Black Easter does leave viewers with some questions. Chief among them: Even if Jesus and all the disciples were assassinated, wouldn’t God still be able to resurrect his Son and, if needed, surround him with a new roster of devout followers? And I realize that Jesus knows all and sees all, but it’s still amusing to see him automatically know what a “movie” is during a discussion with Simon.

That scene ends with a reference to another film in this subgenre. “I’ll be back,” states Jesus, to which Simon blurts out, “I’ll be back? That ain’t even your movie!”

(Black Easter is available for streaming on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu.)

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