Three Christs

Bradley Whitford, Peter Dinklage and Walton Goggins play three men who believe they are Jesus Christ in “Three Christs.”

As with Just Mercy, I cannot criticize the story of Three Christs too much, because it stems from a true story. But it feels like it was the 1959 psychiatric event that the director (Jon Avnet) wanted to tell rather than the story of a pioneering psychiatrist at the center of it.

The film centers on the studies of Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere). He arrives at a mental hospital in Michigan with the belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with needles, electroshock therapy and confinement but with understanding. With some assistance, he takes on the challenge of three men (Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins and Bradley Whitford) who each claim they are Jesus Christ reborn.

In real life, Stone was a very complex individual who wrestled with the idea of playing God and interfering with nature. But most of everything in Three Christs operates one-dimensionally. The patients are cartoonishly labeled insane, while the film’s antagonist is the mustache-twirling type. Some stories do not need a physical villain — sometimes it can just be time or nature itself.

The one saving grace, on the other hand, is the Goggins’ performance as Leon. He’s the more threatening and unpredictable of the Christ figures. Goggins elevates each scene he’s in, making you wish the film didn’t have the padding of the other characters to break the cycle of fascination.

So, if you are still curious about it, Goggins gives Three Christs its value.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on FreshFiction.tv and on RottenTomatoes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

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