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'Mercy Streets' Runs Through Timeworn Spiritual Territory


The makers of "Mercy Streets" take the timeworn trick of twins switching identities and set it in a drama of spiritual redemption, but they don't pack the punch necessary to pull it off. While technically proficient, the film, from the makers of last year's "The Omega Code," lacks the pacing and sharp dialogue needed to make it come alive. As a work by committed Christian filmmakers intent on spreading a message it does not compare with the films made by Billy Graham's production company, many of which were effective in spreading the word through thought-provoking entertainment.

David White plays the twins John and Jeremiah. As the embittered con man John is released from prison, he is met at the gate by his ruthless mentor Rome (Eric Roberts), who persuades him into pulling one last job. When John attempts a swiftly botched double cross, he assumes the identity of his estranged brother Jeremiah, a preacher about to become a fully ordained minister. Meanwhile, the real Jeremiah, who has good reason to be plagued by secret guilt in regard to his brother, is snatched by Rome and his men. White has some good moments, especially when he has to fake Jeremiah's debut sermon and comes up with a persuasive plea to loosen purse strings to help the desperately impoverished, especially young people who have their entire lives in front of them. At the same time, Jeremiah's fiancee (Cynthia Watros) is delighted by the unexpected change in her usually uptight husband-to-be's personality, which finds him suddenly more attentive and romantic.

Despite a competent cast and all the energy Roberts in particular contributes, the filmmakers cannot sustain enough momentum to keep their film from seeming contrived and preachy.

* MPAA-rated: PG-13 for violence. Times guidelines: Adult themes, violence.

'Mercy Streets'

David White: John/Jeremiah

Eric Roberts: Rome

Cynthia Watros: Sam

Stacy Keach: Tom

A Providence Entertainment presentation of a Signal Hill Pictures production. Director Joe Gunn. Producers Kevin Downes, Geoff Ludlow, Bobby Downes. Screenplay by John W. Mann, Jon Gunn. Cinematographer Chris Magee. Editor Jeffrey Lee Hollis. Music Staffan Fantini. Costumes Mila Hermanovski. Production designer Michael Pearce. Set decorator Laird Pulver. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

In general release.

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