Raja Gosnell and Alicia Joy LeBlanc’s Gun and a Hotel Bible is a faith-based message film about a man who is about to commit a serious crime and a Gideon Bible’s attempt to stop him. They argue over the classic question of faith, is God good? I think you can guess the film’s answer.
I don’t think I’m out of line by saying the message movie, be it narrative or documentary, has been problematic (especially in the last year). By message movie, I mean films whose point is to present one side of an argument and challenge the other side. I don’t care what side a film is on or whether I agree with the message or not. I judge message movies as good or bad by how they treat the opposing viewpoint fairly. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Gun and a Hotel Bible opens with Pete’s (Bradley Gosnell) monologue about the night he met his true love, Cindy (Mia Marcon). This story of love soon turns into a tale of betrayal as the relationship goes cold, with now Cindy having an affair.
We now cut to a seedy hotel room, and in the corner nightstand is a Gideon Bible, personified by actor Daniel Floren. Dressed in a nice suit, “Gid” talks about how old he is and somehow still manages to stay relevant and adaptable no matter the country or century. He knows copies of Moby Dick that are, well, dicks.
The room in which the Bible lies is the same room given to Pete as he prepares to commit a horrible act with a gun once his wife and lover arrive. Seeing the Bible on the nightstand, he casually opens it, which begins a conversation between them.
“…Pete argues whether God is indeed moral and the right diety to make that judgment…”
The conversation starts combative. Pete doesn’t like how Gid is judging him and his actions. Gid doesn’t like how Pete takes the Lord’s name in vain… you know, Jesus Christ. They find commonality as both are baseball fans.
The main focus of the conversation centers on whether or not Pete should go through with his plan against his wife. Gid argues the morality of murder from God’s perspective. Still, Pete argues whether God is indeed moral and the right diety to make that judgment, considering God sent a plague to kill every firstborn son in Egypt, flooded the entire planet, and in Leviticus passed sentences of death upon adulterers and adulteresses.
Let me start with the film. Gun and a Hotel Bible is essentially a stage play set to film. As far as movies about two people talking, this is an excellent one. There’s nothing lazy about it. They could have easily set a camera on a tripod and just let the two actors talk—the camera moves around the hotel room to capture the “action” inherent in the conversations. I’d like to see more “talking” movies shot like this.
The acting is excellent as well, and a lot of it has to do with the story. Gun and a Hotel Bible does not have the bright, cheery ending nor dark apocalyptic brimstone ending typical of faith films. Bradley Gosnell plays Pete with the authentic darkness of a man who has thought long and hard about how faith has let him down in life. Daniel Floren, as the Gideon Bible, makes this odd storytelling conceit work by a know-it-all, who doesn’t always know-it-all and captures its message of love at the same time.
Now, let’s talk story. It’s a faith-based film and approaches its subject matter through empathy rather than through superiority. It makes its points by posing tough questions about God and faith. “If God is good, why does He allow great evil to happen?” It favors reason over fear.
What I hope you’ll appreciate about Gun and a Hotel Bible is that it doesn’t try to hit you over the head with religion but presents its points and lets you decide. To me, it does it in a way that’s palatable (for a faith-based film) and compelling.
"…does not have the bright, cheery ending nor dark apocalyptic brimstone ending typical of faith films."