The term ‘occult thriller’ isn’t one that I normally come across, but that’s the core premise of this movie. The movie revolves around the mythology of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’, claiming that the world is about to fall into chaos, and it is up to two people to prevent it. For me, Righteous Villains had stunning leads, but neither protagonist could make up for its short runtime and weak plot.
The movie was oddly convoluted, without diving too far into exploring why the world was the way it was. Simply put, there exists a ‘New World Order’, a group of rich, powerful people that control the world, run by the devil himself. Opposite, lies the ‘Essenes’, a secret group of healers that lived thousands of years ago, and were the ones who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. According to these scrolls, the Bible is man-made, and these scrolls were written by the ‘Essenes’.
It is said that two of these healers, Gabriel and Mary, survived the onslaught that destroyed these peaceful people, and their bloodline lives to this day. Jolie and Jeremiah (survivors of the ‘Essenes’ bloodline) must save a young boy from the devil himself – one who can shift the future of the world, depending on who raises him.
The two leads, Jolie (Lois Brabin-Platt) and Jeremiah (Jamie Crew) captured my attention from the very beginning, and they’re why I gave the rest of the movie a shot. The movie is told from Jeremiah’s perspective, with his voice-over providing crucial details. Jeremiah is a con-man, one who sees himself as ‘escaping poverty’ through thievery, though he is little more than a coward.
Jolie, on the other hand, is a no-nonsense badass who brandishes a gun and asserts herself. She’s braver and taller than Jeremiah, and she’s the one who moves the story forward, taking the first step despite any risks posed by the ‘New World Order’. Despite her rough past – and the fact that she’s lost her husband and unborn child – she rises to the challenge. She asserts herself fiercely and often protects the two of them from an alien or evil presence. She moves quickly and takes no bullshit. Needless to say, I loved her immediately.
Righteous Villains gets off on a great start – we see Jeremiah in his element, conning older women, and we meet Jolie, and the horrors she’s endured. Unfortunately, once the two of them start on their mission, it goes downhill. The mythology isn’t explained well, and it feels like the director cycled through tropes of ‘evil people’ without actually putting any heart into it. It’s a ‘good vs. evil’ story that feels weak because there’s nothing holding it up.
Heck, even the acts themselves were clichéd. The new leader of the order (played by Adam Deacon) is a child molester and abuser. His manifesto includes ‘legalizing pedophilia’ and ‘claiming that the East invented COVID-19 to attack the West’, a notion that is false and racist. When they reach the house where the boy is in, they come across a group eating babies, and (of course) the obligatory orgy.
Apart from its storyline, Righteous Villains is also quite gory, violent, and sexual, from gunshots to the head to nudity and full-on sex on-screen. Personally, I’m comfortable with violence and nudity – if there was a reason behind it. The second half of the movie seemed to introduce things merely for shock value, and not for the story itself.
Unfortunately, the movie’s 75-minute runtime is simply far too short to have proper exposition, or to have a deeper look into the movie’s mythology, and geopolitical structure. It’s built as a ‘rich people bad, protagonists good’. Thing is, they never truly dive into what the New World Order is. Powerful people join because of the ‘blueness of their blood’, but this is never really fleshed out. All we’re given is a single statement, and the rest is left up to the imagination.
The air of mystery built around the New World Order isn’t intriguing, but vague. The ending, too, was conflicted – I’ll avoid dropping any spoilers, but Jolie and Jeremiah fulfilled their character arcs well, but Jeremiah’s end was, well, vague. The movie felt like it was trying to add a dose of ‘weirdness’ to garner a cult following, to become a cult classic. Unfortunately, I felt like the air of mystery and intrigue was overdone, leaving me confused and having many questions.
Rather than trying to become something like Donnie Darko, the movie falls flat by trying too hard to be edgy. By the end of it all, I found myself missing Jolie and Jeremiah – I’d have loved to watch their own histories, and the two of them interact, rather than a convoluted mess.
I must admit, deciphering this movie and pulling apart the various threads was nothing if not entertaining, and I did enjoy discussing it with my friends. Jolie and Jeremiah’s dynamic was fun to watch, making this movie an interesting movie-night pick.
‘Righteous Villains’ will be released on Digital Download from 19th April.
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