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Netflix Gem of the Week: 'The Apostle'

"The Apostle" (1997)
"The Apostle" (1997)
Amazon.com, October Films

"The Apostle" (1997)

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"The Apostle" (1997) 5/5 stars - Robert Duvall wrote, directed and starred in this 1997 film about a deeply-flawed southern preacher with extremely good intentions, and his Oscar-nominated performance as The Apostle E.F. is nothing short of extraordinary.

Duvall undergoes a remarkable transformation into this memorable character, and commands every moment he appears on-screen.

(As a side note...to me, one of the great mysteries in Oscar history is Duvall not winning the Best Actor award that year. Jack Nicholson won for "As Good As It Gets.")

As the film begins, we first see E.F. as a child. He attends a predominantly black church in New Boston, TX, and his experiences as a youth had a profound effect.

By age 12, he led congregations with his sermons, and hasn't stopped since.

E.F. preaches at his church, Temple of the Living God, in Ft. Worth and other locales across the south - at megachurches and also small tents with a Spanish translators.

E.F.'s energetic style is intoxicating as he routinely exclaims:

"We got Holy Ghost power!"

"We got a Holy Ghost explosion!"

"The Devil get left behind! You stay there! You stay there!"

He is no phony, as E.F. will help the lone individual with no crowds or fanfare, and prays in the name of Jesus quietly in his home.

He believes every word he preaches.

With a beautiful wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett), two children and a faithful and loving congregation, life appears complete in his world.

Unfortunately, life can suddenly take you by surprise, and despite his deep spiritual connection, E.F. isn't immune to vicious and sharp left turns on life's journey.

More unfortunate, E.F. makes his situation infinitely worse.

"The Apostle" is a story of an imperfect soul who can't always control his demons, but doesn't hide by religion.

E.F., instead, bathes in his spiritual beliefs despite his flaws.

Along the way, Duvall introduces us to a number of characters that love him for his tireless work of spreading the Lord's word and helping the common man.

Brother C. Charles Blackwell (John Beasley) is his biggest supporter, a local mechanic Sam (Walton Goggins) loves him like a father and a talk radio host Elmo (Rick Dial) embraces E.F.'s spirit.

Billy Bob Thornton makes an appearance in, arguably, the film's best scene, and Duvall even casted country music legend June Carter Cash as his mama.

We are treated to some fun moments, and she even breaks into a song.

I'm not a religious person and haven't attended church in quite a while, but I would gladly travel to a place of worship and listen to E.F. on any random Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic