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Pure Flix Entertainment scores another home run with the production company’s latest film, One Hit from Home. Though One Hit was made by a different creative team than the most recent films under the Pure Flix name and produced in partnership with other companies, Pure Flix keeps its winning record by churning out another high quality movie that inspires and entertains without offensive content.
Mature topics, however, and an obvious older target audience mean this movie is intended for teens and adults. For much of the film, the degree to which it is really faith-based seems under question, but the filmmakers alleviate that concern in the final inning, making a good story great by ultimately bringing the Gospel to center field.
When professional baseball player Jimmy Easton suffers a career-ending knee injury, he reluctantly returns home, severed dreams in hand. Bitter, worldly-wise, and self-absorbed, Jimmy is no longer the kind young man his friends and surviving family remember. Nevertheless, Jimmy’s uncle is not deterred from trying to help his nephew and attempts to recruit Jimmy to coach a losing college baseball team.
Jimmy doesn’t want his uncle’s help, and he definitely doesn’t want to coach baseball. He is far too busy living out the pain of his grief from a devastating personal loss that happened years before. But thanks to his combative lifestyle, Jimmy soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place. The only way out is to put in a type of community service by becoming the college’s baseball coach.
Proving the old horse and water adage, Jimmy shows that he doesn’t have to really coach or be at all interested in bettering the team. He attends most of the practices and games, but openly admits, even to his players, that he has no desire to coach and prefers everyone just stays out of his way. Not surprisingly, the team continues its decline with Jimmy at the helm, and star player Brandon Elliot, who already had an ego problem, has more to complain about.
Brandon is the only player with real talent on the team, and Jimmy notices the young man’s abilities and attitude issues. As a person with similar faults himself, Jimmy initially takes no personal interest in the young talent. But Jimmy’s free ride is about to come to an end, as his past closes in on him. Confronted by his childhood sweetheart, Jimmy starts to remember the life he had and the person he used to be.
[MILD SPOILER WARNING] With a desire to please his deceased father and his former girlfriend, Jimmy tries to change, starting with becoming a real coach. Brandon, however, is an obstacle in Jimmy’s efforts, and the two hurting men tangle, threatening to topple each other with their resentment and pain. If either of them is to ever get home, they’ll need more than hard work and positive circumstances—they’ll need God.
In contrast to the most recent Pure Flix films, the name of the game this time is not comedy, but hard-hitting drama, as One Hit takes a close look at the ugliness of a life lived in rebellion against God. This story is effective in showing that tragedy and a person’s response to it always affects many people, not just those closest to the sorrow. Jimmy is so selfishly convinced he is the only one suffering from loss that he misses the pain of others around him, as well as the further hurt he causes by his behavior.
Out of this story, several messages emerge, with a special emphasis on the sovereignty and providence of God in the face of disaster. The crucial importance of the relationship between fathers and sons is also a strong theme, as both Jimmy and Brandon are heavily influenced by their fathers in positive and negative ways.
In portraying Jimmy’s sordid lifestyle, directors Johnny Meier and David Aaron Stone show creativity and integrity in achieving realism without subjecting viewers to explicit content. Jimmy’s rebellion against God is obvious and authentic, but is illustrated in a way that allows viewers to focus on and understand the man behind such behavior. Instead of getting distracted by negative content, then, the story stays focused on Jimmy’s character motivation and development.
The screenplay, therefore, is highly character-motivated, focusing almost entirely on the emotional journeys of Jimmy and, as a thematically relevant subplot, Brandon. The strength of the script, as one would expect, is attention to character, and the result is apparent in the plethora of well-rounded people in this tale. The story falters slightly, however, when it comes to the plot, which takes too many turns that test one’s suspension of disbelief.
In such a character-driven piece, the acting is of the utmost importance. Perhaps realizing this, the directors take on the two key roles of Jimmy and Brandon themselves. New filmmakers often want to do everything—produce, direct, act—but they are rarely able to perform all of those tasks well. Stone and Meier, who also produced this film, seem to be notable exceptions.
As the star of the movie, Stone embodies Jimmy with a quiet authenticity that makes this oft-unlikable character compelling. There are a few weak moments in Stone’s performance, but they are only small blemishes on an otherwise impressive showing for a relative newcomer. Meier also gives a strong portrayal of Brandon, convincingly portraying the youthful angst and attitude of a troubled college kid significantly younger than Meier himself.
More impressive than these directors’ acting, however, is their artistic filmmaking. Working with cinematographer Jayson Crothers, Stone and Meier bring an artistry that is not seen in the usually functional shooting style of other Pure Flix films. Again showing the wisdom of more experienced filmmakers, Stone and Meier use the beauty of creative cinematography to underscore the story’s dramatic content, rather than as a chance to experiment or impress.
It seems that at the heart of these filmmakers’ creative efforts is a desire to express the message of God’s saving grace. The story of One Hit could do more throughout to convey this message, as the bulk of the film shows only the idea of bettering oneself by personal effort with barely a hint of God’s involvement. While this type of story can still convey morally uplifting and even inspiring ideas, it would be particularly disappointing if a film made by Christians were to neglect showing viewers that any attempts at self-improvement will ultimately fail or be proven worthless.
Just in time, One Hit avoids such a mistake by bringing God into the picture and presenting a clear Gospel message, emphasizing Christ’s redemptive work and the need for reliance on Him. Jimmy, then, becomes a prime example for how even the most earnest attempts to change oneself will fail if they aren’t made through the grace and power of God. Perhaps the filmmakers saved this spiritual revelation till the end to maximize the dramatic impact, but the effect is instead that of a tacked-on element, tossed in for good measure. Still moving and inspirational, the Christian message and the film would both be stronger if the Christian theme had been woven throughout the early parts of the film, building to the end.
It is clear that Stone and Meier have room for improvement, and they could particularly do better in finding stronger actors to fill the supporting roles (which were the definite weakness of this film). But, given the surprising skill, artistry, and Christian truth that One Hit demonstrates, that observation is reason to look forward to their next project with great anticipation. Among faith-based movies at large, One Hit stands out among the better recent offerings as an unusually artistic film with solid production values and, most importantly, an impactful message about the sovereign will and sustaining grace of God.
Check out these similar titles:
The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend (L.A. Film Partners, 1991)
Facing the Giants (Carmel Entertainment, 2006)
The Ride (World Wide Pictures, 1997)