I'm a sucker for tales of redemption and there are few redemption stories in film more powerful than Robert Duvall's The Apostle -- a 1997 movie the actor wrote, directed, and starred in.
Duvall plays Sonny, a fiery preacher with an eye for the ladies. When his wife (Farrah Fawcett) decides that turnabout is fair play, she takes up with a youth minister. She also uses church politics to have him removed from his job -- and this causes Sonny to snap and take a baseball bat to his wife's new love. Sonny doesn't kill the minister, but he does put him in a coma and then immediately flees. Rather than live on the lam, the charismatic man of God wanders into a bayou town, starts a new church, and works at becoming a better person.
While The Apostle features a cast loaded with familiar names (Billy Bob Thornton, Miranda Richardson, and June Carter Cash are also featured in roles) the film is really successful because of Duvall's performance. The actor refuses to play the cliched flawed-man-of-God character, and instead imbues Sonny with a real sense of purpose. Too many films would take the easy way out -- portraying the character as a con artist or a self-serving egomaniac, but Duvall's script chooses to instead portray him as a real human being. Sonny is a holy man, but like the rest of us, he has a few flaws he's working to overcome.
Robert Duvall has had no shortage of great roles over the years, but his work in The Apostle stands alongside the best of his filmography. That he also wrote and directed it only serves to make it that much more impressive.
If you somehow missed out on this one back in 1997, you can view it right now, for free, courtesy of our good friends at Slashcontrol.