Western Religion, a new indie poker film about life and times in the Wild West, was recently released at the San Diego Film Festival. This flick is about a group of gunfighters that descend upon the town of Religion, Arizona in 1879 to compete in a “legendary” poker tournament.
If you are looking for a movie with big name actors, or even a C-lister or two, you should probably find something else. The cast includes the likes of Peter Shinkoda, Vivian Lamolli, Miles Szanto, and Marik Tadros. If those names don’t sound familiar, you’re not alone.
Western Religion was intended to be released in 2014 but, due to a lack of funding (and probably interest), the dozens (?) of poker fans excited to see it were forced to wait a year. Oh, the horror.
Based on its ridiculously long trailer (2:45), the film has a confusing plot, a Johnny Depp-wannabe actor, and cheesy Old West stereotypes.
The Plot Sickens
Western Religion appears to be the 2015 version of Rounders, except completely different. Rounders, of course, was a legendary poker movie with a star-studded cast. Western Religion is, well, none of the above.
I watched the trailer and, quite honestly, am confused as to the plot. That’s the first sign of why this movie isn’t worth seeing. The plot appears to be about a group of stereotypical Old West gunslingers that compete in a poker tournament, with the winner being granted a shiny gold cross.
Along the way, fights break out and all sorts of uninteresting adult drama ensues. Oh, and plenty of bad acting. That’s about all I could gather from the trailer. But don’t take my word for it: watch it for yourself below.
A Crowdfunding Fail
James O’Brien (Wish You Were Here, Venice Bound) wrote and directed Western Religion. He created a crowdfunding page on Indiegogo in hopes of generating $100,000 to fund his movie. He came up well short, raising a whopping $16,380.
Where the money came from is unknown, although I would guess most donors were friends and family members. I’m not sure who else would want to contribute to such a cheesy movie.
On its Indiegogo crowdfunding page, the filmmakers offered up some interesting incentives to those making a donation, including:
$25: Shout out on Facebook.
$75: Limited edition Western Religion tee-shirt (oh boy!).
$150: A “special thank you” mention in the movie’s credits.
$300: Signed copy of the script.
$500: Invitation to the Wrap Party in Hollywood.
$750: Be a Featured Extra in the movie.
$1,500: On-the-job filmmaker training.
$2,500: Be in the movie and have at least one line.
$5,000: Receive IMDb Associate Producer credit.
$7,500: Receive IMDb Executive Producer credit.
Since they were obviously desperate for cash, had I known about this movie prior to filming, I probably would have given them a crisp $20 bill to get my name in the credits. My esteemed editor said she would have offered up $20 just to keep her name off the credits.
On a serious note, I’m sure the folks that put this movie together worked extremely hard. I just don’t know why they thought poker and/or movie fans would find it entertaining. Western Religion makes Gigli and Showgirls seem like The Godfather.
Apparently no one on this set knew when to walk away, or, in this case, run.