Film Review: ‘Beyond the Mask’

Courtesy of Freestyle Releasing

A drama of redemption by way of an American Revolution history lesson, Chad Burns' action-adventure yarn offers little in the way of subtlety or surprise.

A British mercenary’s rocky road to redemption (and romance) leads him into the very heart of the American Revolution in director Chad Burns’ “Beyond the Mask,” a mostly stiff, infrequently stirring attempt to furnish a swashbuckling historical yarn for Christian audiences. The mixed result feels like a half-glass affair all around: Production values are well above the faith-based-indie average, if still somewhat deficient in texture and atmosphere; and the script is preachy in ways that will be wholly acceptable to its target audience (and perhaps even a few non-believers who stumble in by accident), yet still so simplistically and creakily plotted that dramatic excitement and character complexity remain firmly at bay. Rolling out in more than 100 theaters after profitable four-wall and VOD exposure, this Kickstarter-funded, $4 million-budget effort should benefit from its unusually ambitious action-adventure approach, but seems unlikely to match the grassroots success of Freestyle’s 2014 hit “God’s Not Dead.”

William Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) is a skilled 18th-century assassin who’s cut a bloody swath through India on the orders of the hugely powerful and corrupt British East India Company. But when he decides it’s time to turn over a new leaf and retire to the English countryside, he’s promptly double-crossed by his dastardly employer, Charles Kemp (John Rhys-Davies). Barely escaping an attempt on his life, Will takes on the identity of a young vicar in a nearby village, where he fumbles at the pulpit and quickly falls in love with a fetching, pure-hearted maiden named Charlotte (Kara Killmer), who tentatively returns his affections. It’s here, too, that Will’s man-of-the-cloth masquerade introduces him to the possibility of hope — spelled out in clear terms by Charlotte’s servant Jeremiah (Charlie Newhart), who offers him a wise, God-fearing benediction: “Redemption, not revenge.”

Both turn out to be in the offing, however, once Kemp realizes his enemy is still alive — and in possession of highly incriminating evidence against him and the East India Company — and sends Will on the run again, this time to the American colonies circa 1776. Conveniently enough, both Kemp and Charlotte follow suit, and before long Will is taking a page from the Batman/Zorro playbook, transforming himself into a masked vigilante called “the Highwayman” and foiling Kemp’s violent attempts to repress the colonists and their revolutionary leanings. That includes the surprisingly advanced use of explosives, a problem that calls for the scientific expertise of a doddering, self-quoting Benjamin Franklin (Alan Madlane), leading to a bomb-defusing climax that, in its convoluted plotting and dependence on cut-rate CGI, feels heavily derivative of such lackluster studio properties as the “National Treasure” franchise and the Robert Downey Jr.-starring “Sherlock Holmes” movies.

All this onscreen mayhem, though utterly devoid of suspense or surprise, makes a pretty odd fit with Will’s spiritual journey as he gradually comes to realize that honest self-examination and repentance — not violence, deception or even romantic love — will restore him to the Lord’s good graces. It’s a message delivered unsubtly yet sincerely, and with pleasing emotional grace notes by likable leads Killmer and Cheney, even if the latter can be as drippy as he is dashing. Chewing the scenery with comparative abandon, meanwhile, is Rhys Davies, who is no stranger to Christian fare after “Killing Jesus” and “One Night With the King” (as well as his famous role as Gimli in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), and whose bellicose, two-dimensional villainy makes for undeniably enjoyable viewing. All in all, you’ve sat through duller history lessons, and almost certainly duller sermons.

Film Review: 'Beyond the Mask'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, June 4, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 103 MIN.


A Freestyle Releasing release of a Burns Family Studios production. Produced by Aaron Burns. Executive producer, Serra Ventures. Co-producer, Chad Burns.


Directed by Chad Burns. Screenplay, Paul McCusker, Stephen Kendrick, Brennan Smith; story, Aaron Burns, Chad Burns. Camera (color, widescreen), Ethan Ledden; editor, Mike Welch; music, Jurgan Beck; production designer, Nick Burns; art director, Daniel Stibral; costume designer, Marilyn Burns; sound, Teddy Hallaron; sound designer, Nathan Ashton; special effects coordinator, Dustin Ledden; visual effects supervisor, Ethan Ledden; visual effects producer, Aaron Burns; visual effects, Burns Family Studios, NvisibleFx, Incessant Rain Studios, Anibrain; stunt coordinator, Rick Shaw; fight choreographer, Ethan Ledden; associate producers, Tracey Burns, Chip Lake, Nina May; assistant director, Charles Lake; second unit camera, Brent Christy, Alex Lerma; casting, Beverly Holloway.


Andrew Cheney, Kara Killmer, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Samrat Chakrabarti, Steve Blackwood, Alan Madlane, Charlie Newhart, John Rhys-Davies.

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  1. John Taylor says:

    En 1775 no existían los cables plastificados

  2. Monalisa says:

    Why didn’t William cut the wires when he found the windmill! It was really stupid… He could cut the wires.

  3. Mike says:

    Surprisingly good action scenes and pyrotechnics more than make up for some slow dialogue. I recommend seeing the movie if you the American Revolutionary War period. I will be looking for a copy on DVD to add to my home movie collection.

  4. Danley Wolfe says:

    I agree with Rebekah. Clearly the storyline is fictional but the very idea of pulling together several disparate concepts from historical legend into the plot doesn’t hurt a bit. It is not supposed to be an historical novel with footnotes. Ben Franklin – electricity; Guy Fawkes (1570-1605) who was part of a conspiracy to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne via renting an undercroft beneath the House of Lords and stockpiling gunpowder guarded by Fawkes – to be foiled by an anonymous letter giving away the plot. Ok the movie is it is a little far fetched re gunpowder being stored in 10-12 different of Philadelphia with wiring to a windmill where the electrical charge was initiated from a laboratory type Van de Graff generator and a kind of Leyden jar to store static electricity until it reaches the proper amp/volt level. Not believable but so what… interesting enough and >90% of the public wouldn’t know the difference. It’s called fiction and creative license.

  5. Ethan says:

    Super bias start of the the review, obviously effected review of the actual movie. Ignore this bull crap politically charged bias review and go watch this great movie.

  6. Rebekah Gibbs says:

    I loved this movie and I didn’t like or agree with his review. Director great…story great and full of surprises. MUST SEE

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