Joe Steadman (Ron Eldard) is a widowed father of two who is trying to put the pieces of his life together, including the strained relationships with his daughters (Jordan Danger and Jade Tailor) after the recent death of his wife. Joe suddenly finds himself the unwilling test subject of a maniacal scientist (Colm Feore) believes Joe is the secret to saving Earth’s impending doom.
Higher Power was directed and co-written by Matthew Charles Santo. Santo has a background in special effects, working on films such as Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand, with Higher Power being his writing and directorial debut. Santos’ co-writer, Julia Fair, had very limited writing credits coming into the film. The lack of experience on both of their parts is a significant detriment to the film. Basic three-act structure is bent and distorted, with the first act taking up nearly half of the film, and the third act tightly crammed at the end.
The second act escalates so quickly that it loses credibility along the way. I would have boughten the series of events in the film had they been better spread out and given time to develop. The story moves in a direction that goes beyond what I would have expected, which would have worked had a better foundation been built to support it. Instead, the film plays out like a comic book, becoming so grandiose in nature and so special effects-laden that we are left with little of the emotion or humanity that we were given at the beginning of the film. The two writers’ inexperience is evident in the dialogue as well, which is cliched and contrite at times, often playing out like mid-tier basic cable series.
Eldard does a nice job with what he has to work with. He has proven to be a good actor in films such as Sleepers and Blackhawk Down. Here he portrays Joe as a man who is trying his hardest to avoid complete self-destruction. Unfortunately, the character isn’t written as three-dimensional as it should be. Joe is also depicted as a bit shlubby (for a lack of a better term), and while that may have been in the script, or it is just a case of Eldard not being in the same shape as he was as a golden glove boxer, it’s an odd choice for the protagonist of an action film.
Higher Power is not a bad film overall. It’s incredibly engaging on a conceptual level, but I just would have liked to see it explored further with better writers, perhaps in a longer form like a television or streaming series. Given Santo’s visual effects background, it’s a visually impressive film, but unfortunately, he seems to have been written for the sole purpose of flexing his FX skills.
Sadly, the special features are limited to only the theatrical trailer and trailers from more films from Magnolia Pictures.
Release Country: United States
English Dolby Atmos
Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Movie Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: August 14th, 2018
“Higher Power” has a lot of potential, but is marred by uneven pacing and weak writing.