The Investigator - A Film Review

I was fortunate to see one of the first cuts of The Investigator last year when it was submitted to the JP2 Film Festival. I immediately fell in love with it because there was something deeper going on with the film. I have, since then, seen the film at least 5 times, including the most recent release, and continue to be inspired by it.

Why is this film so unique? Within it, contains the elements of a classic film, including it's ability to morph into multiple genre's. It reveals a compelling lead actor, who makes it difficult to stop looking at, and is written and inspired by the life of Richard Romano, the beloved brother of comedian Ray Romano. 

I hate labels and genre's for many reasons, but mainly because of the restriction they place on a film or piece of music. I am a huge fan of "Christian" music, sticking to the current genre's, and it's unfair that these musicians are not considered for regular Grammy's. They are placed into one category, Best Christian/Gospel album, even if the albums are completely different in style. A "genre" is based on the musical style of the album, Rock, Pop, Rap, etc. The "Christian" genre refers to the content of the lyrics rather than the style of music. There is "Christian" Rap (Lecrae and Toby Mac), Rock (Switchfoot and David Crowder Band), Pop (Hillsong and Chris Tomlin), and AMAZING (Gungor and Audrey Assad)...J/k, but not really. The point is that you should not base your genre on the content. The same is applied to film, they are called "Faith-based" films. Yet, "Faith-Based" film is not a genre that speaks to the style of the movie like, Comedy, Drama, Horror, and Sci-Fi do. It places a restriction on the film because of it's content. 

The Investigator breaks it's typical "Faith-based" label because it is infused with multiple styles and feelings, opening itself up to multiple genre's. It's light humor can place it as a comedy, the baseball scenes categorize it as sports drama , the gripping investigation of the homicide of Jesus plays like crime action, and the moving theme of unity makes it a family film. At the end of the day, The Investigator is exactly what it should be, a great film, not a just  "Faith-based" film that only Christians should watch. 

Wade Williams
A film is only as good as it's actors and The Investigator introduces us to an amazing lead whom brings Richard's life to the big screen. Wade Williams plays James Buanacore, a detective forced into retirement after a police stakeout gone wrong. Wade transforms himself into a multi-layered character playing a strong willed seasoned detective, a soft hearted husband, a paternal baseball coach, and an uncomfortable school teacher. He carries the film from scene to scene with a great supporting cast. It's not just Wade's performance that sets this film apart, but the innocence of Carlos Garriga, who plays Stephen the school's underdog, and the gut wrenching emotional performance of Nicole Abisinio who plays Stephanie, James' wife. This film hits its mark in the performance category.

Richard Romano
In film, the mise-en-scène (everything on screen) can be affected by an abundant of factors, including a characters past roles. While Richard Romano has not played a lead character, his own life has been portrayed in exaggeration on his brother's show "Everybody Love's Raymond". As an audience member, knowing the character of Robert, this film comes to life in a completely unique and indescribable way. It opens our hearts as viewers because we think we know Richard by watching so many years of Robert. The film introduces us to the real Richard, winning our love through his vulnerability and sincerity. The fact that we can take what we know about Robert, that he is a cop, and apply it to James, a detective, the entire movie is a once in a lifetime experience.

I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Richard last year when he screened The Investigator at the John Paul II International Film Festival. It took home the audience award for Best Feature Film and received an amazing reception. You forget that what you are watching on screen actually happened to Richard, including the scenes that seem like they were added for Hollywood effect, such as the Baseball fight. No, that actually happened. The script was extremely well crafted in order to tell Richard's story.

A Film for Everyone
The Investigator succeeds at showing the unity of Christianity, in a positive light. The only other film that I have recently seen that does this is "The Mighty Macs (the 2009 JP2IFF Audience Award Winner). The Investigator reveals actual human struggles with God, suffering, and death. As a Catholic, it can be easy for me to dismiss life's difficulties and tell someone to just pray about it, however, that's not always the right answer. Sometimes we want to be angry with God and have every right to be. In the case of The Investigator, James suffers the loss of his child, job, and faith. He has a right to be angry and vocalizes it. He throws the bible to the floor and blames God for everything that happened. By voicing our concerns to God, it actually strengthens our faith because it opens up communication within a relationship. It is what ultimately fuels James' investigation on the existence of Jesus.

The Investigator is a film that can be seen by anyone of different faiths, religions, or creeds because it provokes one to investigate their own beliefs. Accepting the faith that your parents gave you without question, no matter what it is, creates "on the surface" believers who risking having no depth. It takes the investigation, the doubting, the disbelief, the challenging of a faith in order for one to truly own it. When you have questioned your own beliefs and persevered is when you can say that you have taken ownership of that faith. Until then, your faith has been on lease, with the option to buy...figuratively (You cannot purchase heaven!). In the film James investigates the homocide of Jesus Christ using circumstantial evidence and all of his talents as a detective. He takes ownership of his faith and helps others do the same.

In conclusion, The Investigator is a great film for anyone who loves sports, crime dramas, struggles of faith, and stories with strong family themes. It is the launching pad for anyone, of any religion, who is struggling with their faith to help investigate their own beliefs. It breaks all cliche's of a "Faith-based" films, is superbly acted, and tells the real life story of Richard Romano. 
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