By Tom Meek | December 15, 1997

In this indie portrait of Southern evangelism, Robert Duvall takes a turn behind the camera as both writer and director. But it’s in front of the camera where Duvall shines as the Apostle E. F., a poor-man’s incarnation of Jimmy Baker. What makes Duvall’s Apostle E. F. so compelling is the egregious hypocrisy he hides behind the fanatical spiritualism and silver tongue. Under his fortified pillar of righteousness lies a compulsive womanizer and a violently explosive temper. And it’s this cocktail of sinful impulses that costs the Pentecostal preacher his church, flock and family, leaving him at odds with the law and on the runway to redemption. Duvall chews up the scenery with smoldering, fire-and-brimstone orations. Arguably his thespian labors are worthy of Oscar recognition, but behind the camera his efforts are not as sharp: the film’s agenda is perplexingly nebulous, and the narrative often wallows in languorous scenes that seemingly lead nowhere. “The Apostle” is a passionate work that lacks balance.

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