Hollywood ultimately operates as a business, with some studios skating by solely on the strength of their financial returns. The Christian-based company Pure Flix is a prime example of this dynamic, releasing a bevy of big-screen (God’s Not Dead and Unplanned) and straight to DVD projects that appeal to their religious-right audience despite the inherently poor craftsmanship. This fact is part of what makes their latest action vehicle Beckman such a welcomed surprise.
Beckman follows a titular assassin (David A.R. White), who retires from his life of bloodshed to pursue a righteous path. After becoming a preacher and adopting a formerly-enslaved teen Tabitha (Brighton Sharbino), Beckman gets a rude awakening from his old-life when Tabitha is kidnapped. Now, Beckman must go on an all-out rampage to save her from the dastardly cult leader Resse (William Baldwin).
Labeled as the “Christian John Wick” by many, Beckman’s hokey conception is matched with some surprisingly assured craftsmanship. Director Gabriel Sabloff’s film is as mean-and-lean as it gets, presenting an onslaught of gunplay and fistfights without an ounce of pretentiousness (after a 20-minute set-up, the film relentlessly travels from setpiece to setpiece). Relying upon practical stunt work and tight-quarters framing, Sabloff ably captures these scrappy setpieces with technical aplomb, delivering the kind of gratifying stand-offs that make the action genre a beloved staple. It’s far more impressive to see a director make the most out of limited assets rather than throwing bombastic effects at the screen.
When the action isn’t onscreen, Beckman stays afloat thanks to David A.R. White’s commanding central performance. White, a frequent collaborator of Pure Flix, steps into the action hero role with impressive ease, inserting enough gravitas to propel the character’s archetype design. He and Brighton Sharbino do enough to make their makeshift father-daughter relationship resonate, supplying a sturdy center for the carnage to ensue around. I also got a kick out of William Baldwin’s mustache-twirling villain, as Baldwin delivers his lines with enough sinister glee to make for a worthy adversary.
That being said, Beckman gets by more from its general competence rather than any conceptual ingenuity. Almost every plot beat and character dynamic feel patchworked from far superior films, with the script having nothing to show for itself other than copied ideas. I also was surprised to see how little the film showcased its religious flavor. Utilizing a sense of morality to juxtapose the character’s descent towards his former murdering ways has potency on paper. Sabloff’s deliver minimizes the complexity of this dynamic though, with simplistic parables adding minimal dramatic weight.
For fans of guilty-pleasure action films, Beckman colors its familiar formula with enough sound craftsmanship to register a positive impression.