The novelty alone makes “Beyond the Mask,” a faith-based film pitched as a swashbuckling action picture set during the American Revolution, worth a look.
It’s got piracy, revolution and ordinary men battling against the original “Too Big To Fail” megalopoly of the British East India Company.
There’s also a cameo by the most whimsically secular of the Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin.
An utterly conventional and old fashioned swashbuckler, “Mask” takes William Reynolds (Andrew Cheyney), a mercenary agent hired by the East India Company, then set up to take a fall for its sins, to America where he takes on a new identity and a new profession. He’s a pastor in the colonies, and not that good in the pulpit.
Even his congregants, especially the fetching Charlotte (Kara Killmer of “Chicago Fire”), raise an eyebrow. But she doesn’t suspect him of being “the notorious” Reynolds, wanted by the law and a force greater than the law — the East India Company.
“Only God can give us new lives,” she opines.
But the swashbuckling vicar’s secret is safe only until the arch-villain Charles Kemp (John Rhys-Davies) can find him. And with the East India Company cooking up a teapot full of trouble for the colonies, that won’t be long.
Reynolds flees to Philly, where publisher Ben Franklin finds work for him. Reynolds is soon in the thick of it, as is the lady the vicar he once loved.
The divisive politics of 1776 play out on the streets, and in the pubs. Picking the King & Crown for a pint isn’t a wise choice for Reynolds.
“It seems I spoke out for liberty,” he tells Franklin (Alan Madlane, who lacks the presence to play the man), “and was thrown out ... on my convictions!”
It’s a decent plot that doesn’t have the light writerly or directorial touch or proper budget to come off. When you’re relying on Franklin’s new toy, “electricity,” to set off bombs, you’d better have convincing effects and there simply wasn’t money for much other than the occasional digital rendering of an 18th century sailing ship.
On the whole, “Beyond the Mask” truly lacks the wit or excitement to succeed, though it is intriguing enough to make you hope this team gets to make more films, perhaps spending more money on screenwriting as they do.