Sherwood Pictures’ new film “Courageous” begins with a heart-stopping chase as a man caught in a convenience store robbery races on foot after the bandits who took off in his new truck.
Once he and the local sheriff’s deputies catch up with the robbers, moviegoers learn the man was not worried about his pickup. He ran after the thieves not to prevent his property from being stolen but to protect what is in the back seat.
“Courageous” opens Friday, Sept. 30, at the Bangor Mall Cinema and around the country. It is the latest spiritual message movie from the Albany, Ga.-based film company that produced “Fireproof,” “Facing the Giants” and “Flywheel.”
Proceeds from box-office receipts and DVD and book tie-in sales go to support the ministries of the church.
The new movie, written, directed and starring ministers and staff of the Sherwood Baptist Church, cost $1 million. That’s twice the budget of “Fireproof,” which starred Kirk Cameron as a firefighter who turned to God and Scripture to save his marriage.
“Courageous” urges men to commit fully to being fathers. It ends with the main characters agreeing publicly to a 12-part resolution based, in part, on Joshua 24:15 — “As for men and my house, we will serve the Lord.” There is a book tie-in titled “The Resolution for Men” and another for women.
Alex Kendrick, an associate pastor at the church, founded Sherwood Pictures in 2002 as a way to reach larger audiences and fulfill to church’s mission “to reach the whole world with the whole word.” He wrote, produced, directed and acted in “Flywheel” with the help of 60 volunteers, including his brother, in 2003.
Kendrick’s interest in movies was sparked in childhood when he and his brother, Stephen Kendrick, also an associate pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church, made eight-millimeter films growing up in Smyrna, Ga. The two have partnered on all four Sherwood movies.
The success and industry buzz around “Flywheel,” coupled with the money earned by Mel Gibson’s religious movie, “The Passion of the the Christ,” got the attention of Provident Films, a division of Sony Pictures. The Kendrick brothers’ second movie, “Facing the Giants,” was shown in more than 1,000 theaters after its September 2006 release, according to the “Courageous” website. It grossed more than $10 million in box-office receipts. The DVD was released in 13 languages, in 56 countries, and sold more than 2 million copies. More than 10,000 churches have used it for ministry outreach.
“Fireproof” was released in September 2008 and grossed more than $33 million, making it the highest-grossing independent film of that year. Nearly 3 million DVDs of the film have been sold.
The heroes of the Kendricks’ films are shown in family situations, but a backyard barbecue shows the men drinking soda, not alcohol. Although the characters of “Courageous” are shown in bed with their wives, hugging is the most intimate interaction in the film.
Because the main characters in the film are law enforcement officers, there is violence in “Courageous.” It is the first time the Kendricks have used stunt doubles or green screens for special effects, which are simple compared to multimillion-dollar Hollywood features.
Alex Kendrick portrays the lead character and “Courageous” boasts no stars, former stars or members of the Screen Actors Guild, according to the film’s website.
Despite its action scenes, “Courageous” is not a film many nonbelievers would describe as “thrilling.” But its message, according to the Kendricks, is one American men need to heed since more than a third of children grow up in households without them. About a quarter of the nation’s children grow up in households headed by just their mothers.
“Courageous,” however, is not really aimed at absent fathers. It is intended to inspire apathetic fathers to become more active in their children’s lives by committing themselves to God, Christ and family through the resolution — a courageous act, according to the filmmakers.