This Satanic-panic movie arrives 40 years too late

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

God Is a Bullet
On Demand, Opens July 11
2 out of 5

Whenever you read “based on real events”, take it with a grain of salt. At best, some liberties have been taken to compress the story into a screenable movie. At worst, they try to sell you a whopper like God Is a Bullet.

Based on a pulpy 1999 true-crime book that may or may not have been a genre send-up, God Is a Bullet is directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, Alpha Dog). Nick may not have his father John’s keen understanding of human relations, but he makes up for it by making emotions BIG.

Spot the plot’s implausibilities: following the murder of his ex-wife and kidnapping of his tween daughter in a home invasion by a travelling cult, Detective Bob Hightower (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones) gives up on the police and decides to do his own investigation.

His only ally is Case (Maika Monroe), a former member of the cult out for retribution against the leader, a Manson type know-it-all (Karl Glusman). Along the way, the two argue about religion, get poorly done tattoos, and execute people who deserve it.

God Is a Bullet is the kind of movie the “satanic panic” peddlers would have loved during the Reagan era. Alas, the film falters whenever the devout Hightower tries to establish his moral superiority, with Case arguing there’s little difference between worshiping God or Satan.

There are, however, a couple of elements that make God Is a Bullet not easily dismissible. The main one is Monroe. A horror darling (It Follows) who failed to make the transition to the mainstream (her calling card — Independence Day: Resurgence — crashed and burned), Monroe is touching as the proto victim for whom revenge seems the only appropriate response.

Also, in the few moments where the film embraces the trashiness of the source material, it’s actually entertaining.

But for a movie that aims for gritty realism, there are plenty of artistic flourishes and hardboiled dialogue that undermine the effort. Not very Cassavetes of you, Nick. ■