Despite enough good intentions to pave a four-lane highway, the ardently sincere but dramatically unfocused “For Greater Glory” plays like a multipart miniseries that has been hacked down to feature length. Even worse, from a commercial point of view, the restrictive R rating (for violence) likely will keep away some of the potential aud for a pic about a 1920s civil war in Mexico waged because of government-sanctioned restrictions of religious freedom. Limited theatrical play should be fleeting, though the handsomely produced period drama might find converts in home-screen platforms.
Andy Garcia strikes the right poses and gives rousing speeches as Enrique Gorostieta, a retired and much-decorated military mastermind who’s reluctantly drawn into leading a ragtag army of Cristeros, Mexican insurgents inflamed by the forced-secularization policies of President Plutarco Calles (Ruben Blades).
Unfortunately, however, scripter Michael Love and f/x wiz-turned-helmer Dean Wright turn their attention away from Gorostieta for long periods in order to focus on a wide variety of less compelling characters.
Among the supporting players, only Blades, Bruce Greenwood (as a skeptical U.S. ambassador) and, fleetingly, Peter O’Toole (as a frightfully vulnerable priest) register any sort of impact amid repetitious scenes of wary bonding, bloody battles, political maneuvering and melodramatic speechifying.
Still, the subject is interesting enough that there may well be an audience for even a deeply flawed pic dealing with it.
Time and again, “For Greater Glory” emphasizes president Calles’ hostility toward the Catholic Church, which manifests itself here with merciless attacks by soldiers on priests and their parishioners, and frankly indicates that Vatican reps and/or sympathizers actively supported armed uprisings by the Cristeros. It comes as no surprise when, during the closing credits, the filmmakers reveal that, decades after the fact, some of the characters depicted in this drama were canonized by Pope John Paul II.