Director Tim Chey is the warped mind behind the off-the-wall Christian legal drama Suing the Devil. On the strength of that movie, I plunked down $3.27 and bought two of his earlier, out-of-print movies: 2002’s Gone (a Rapture film) and 2008’s Live Fast, Die Young. The latter is about an A-list Hollywood party – because who makes movies about D-listers, after all – which goes awry when famed actress Samantha Copola overdoses on a lethal mix of heroin and ecstasy. In come the police, led by the gloriously hammy William Thomas Jones, who seal off the exits and vow to keep the party-goers locked up until the person who gave Copola the heroin confesses. While the group is so quarantined, the conversation turns to God and “the big questions” are answered.
Of course, it takes a good half hour of needless introductions and expositions before Copola starts convulsing. There’s not much worth mentioning about this long slog, except that I am nearly positive that the movie was shot in the same mansion as the abysmal Eric Roberts joint A Talking Cat!?!. Incidentally, while attempting to verify this hunch (I’m really 99% sure that it’s true), I found out that the director of A Talking Cat!?!, David DeCoteau, filmed a series of homoerotic B-movies in the same location.
David Putnam (Gary Poux), revered scriptwriter and recent Christian convert, is ostensibly our primary character. While many others have attended the party in the hopes of selling their scripts or being cast in a new film, Putnam’s goal is only to sell people on Jesus. When he gets called a loser, he retorts: “No one who believes in God is a loser.” Most of the other party-goers are thinly drawn and unreal. At one point, a big-shot media mogul named Sidney hears that a newspaper will not advertise his studio’s movies. He crows: “You think I care about journalistic integrity? That went out he window when I bought the newspaper!” Also, almost every character refers to the party as an “Xmas party”, so much that it begins to sound really awkward. “This is the worst ex-muss party ever,” one character moans, after Copola’s death. No doubt it was an attempt on Chey’s part to show the attendees’ godlessness, but it’s an entirely unbelievable affectation.
The real meat of the movie comes after Copola’s death, though, so let’s jump forward. A lot of questions are posed to Putnam, as apparently the sole Christian in the room (really?), because the death has affected everybody deeply. One of the first questions he is asked is why God would allow Copola to die. Remarkably, the subject is changed before he is required to give an answer. This reminded me immediately of a similar scene in Suing the Devil where a Christian character is confronted with the millions of deaths God has allegedly caused, but does not answer. I’ll repeat what I wrote in my review for that movie: ” I mean, Tim, you wrote the movie. You don’t have to include anything that you don’t want to.”
Putnam is asked why he became a Christian and he acknowledges it was because he “hit rock-bottom”. Funny that, conversion to Christianity seems to come only when a person is at their most vulnerable, their weakest. I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody say it occurred when they were at their most lucid. Putnam’s story mirrors that of director Tim Chey himself, who claims that he was ultimately convinced by reading a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room. Putnam claims he had been studying all religions because he wanted to find answers (weird place to look for answers), but picked up the Gideon’s Bible because he thought to himself: “What is it about this book that so many people love?” It’s not really clear why he chose that book specifically; if he were truly researching all religions, he would surely have recognized that people love several different books. So why that one in particular? Again, Putnam (and by extension, Chey) has no answer. In fact, he bluntly states that after reading the Bible, quote: “I just believed.” No proof necessary, I just believed.
This leads to a strange back and forth between the different party-goers. Putnam is joined by another attendee, director Rich Stevens, who apparently is also a Christian now to take some weight off of Putnam’s shoulders. To begin convincing the unbelievers, Rich asks this poignant question: “Would you be more scared if a large group of men approached you in the middle of the night carrying baseball bats or Bibles?” I guess the point is that because baseball bats are more frightening than Bibles, that makes Christianity… the correct religion? Incidentally, Stevens intended the question to be rhetorical, as he ignores those who respond that they would be more frightened by the Bible-thumpers. I suppose I personally might be more intimidated by the baseball bats, but that doesn’t mean that a group of men carrying Bibles wouldn’t be terrifying as well – is it enough that people carrying Bibles are less frightening than those carrying weapons?
Next, Stevens and Putnam join forces when a woman says that it is unfair that Copola died. You cannot say that life is unfair without some concept of fairness, they say; likewise, you cannot say that life has no meaning without some concept of “meaning”. The unstated argument is that the only way to have a concept of fairness is if God created it. This is a tremendous logical leap made without any justification whatsoever. What prevents us from having devised the concept of “fairness” ourselves? Of course there is nothing—nothing except Putnam/Chey’s bald assertion to the contrary.
Next, Putnam argues that the human eye is incredibly complex, and that its millions of cells could not be the product of evolution. Again, he has no particular explanation for why it could not be the product of evolution apart from his own assertion that it could not be. When Sidney the media mogul points out that the human eye isn’t even particularly well-developed, Putnam shoots back that “only a few people believe the eye isn’t perfect”. Really? Only a few people believe this squishy, exposed organ, with very limited vision capabilities (can’t see UV, can’t see in the dark, can’t zoom in, etc.) and which transmits images upside-down is not “perfect”? Something tells me Putnam is fibbing. He goes on to say that even if the eye is not perfect, pointing this out is a “straw man argument”—like suggesting that a dent in a car door means it came not from a factory, but instead from “the Big Bang theory” (his words). Setting aside his misunderstanding of what a “straw man argument” is, his dismissive attitude is absurd. If all car doors came out of the factory with dents in them, you’d have to admit that this flaw was either not intentional or at least the product of an unintelligent designer.
Stevens’ next statement goes unrebuffed: “I believe God exists because I can’t prove he doesn’t.” Nobody says a word to argue against this. As I’ve pointed out before, God is easily disproven by simply recognizing that our main light sources causes cancer.
Alright, next, the question finally gets asked: there are so many religions that claim to be the one path to enlightenment, how can they all be reconciled? Putnam’s response is unpersuasive. He states that the authors of the Bible were not lying or mistaken because they received nothing but persecution and death (as well as devotees and fame, of course). In any case, this is an especially weak argument. First, it makes no attempt to account for the possibility that the Apostles may have been suffering under a delusion. Second, the fact that many were killed for their beliefs is irrelevant. Lots of people willingly suffer the consequences for holding incorrect beliefs: look no further than the 900 deaths in Jonestown for evidence. That a handful of religious zealots living in a largely pre-scientific age would be willing to die (or more accurately, be martyred—they were all convinced they would get something out of the deal) for extraordinarily wrong-headed beliefs is not the least bit surprising. It certainly does not constitute proof that their beliefs were accurate.
To those who would say you can’t prove the Bible is real, Putnam argues that you can’t prove the Roman or Grecian Empires existed either. One attendee objects that the Roman and Grecian Empires can be found in history books. Putnam: “Isn’t the Bible a history book?” No, it is not. It might have some historic elements, but it is not a history book. There are no contemporaneous accounts of any of the miracles attributed to Jesus or any other Biblical miracles. To argue that there is no evidence that the Roman or Grecian Empires existed betrays deep stupidity or unfathomable deceit. There are statues, monuments, and mosaics still standing all over the area attesting to the existence of these cultures. Furthermore, even if we had nothing more than a few scraps of writing, there is a great chasm between believing that a culture and government once existed versus believing that supernatural miracles definitely occurred. It is foolish to compare the two.
Here’s the point where I might just throw my hands up in disgust and call it a day. Putnam, with total sincerity, says: “The Bible is batting, like, .1000. In the past 2000 years, nobody has ever been able to show any historic, scientific, or archaeological mistakes in the Bible.” You’d have to be in a coma not to recognize that there are countless historic, scientific, and archaeological mistakes in the Bible. This is a blatant falsehood. It’s a complete and utter lie. Well, I take that back, and here’s why…
Near the end of the movie, Putnam asserts that Jesus is the Savior (um… Savior from what, exactly?) and that he knows Jesus is God in part because he was rejected, despised, and crucified. If he were trying to be popular, he would have fallen in line and not been so rebellious! But wait, Putnam/Chey initially started believing in Jesus because of how overwhelmingly accepted he apparently is. Now he points to the exact opposite as proof of Jesus’ divinity. So which is it: is he God because so many people believe he is, or because very few people believed he was?
The answer is “Yes”. That is, whatever the situation may be, to Chey and people like him, it stands as proof of Jesus being God. In the end, it is not that Chey is lying about the historic, scientific, and archaeological mistakes and inconsistencies in the Bible, it’s that he has convinced himself that those problems do not exist. If the world is round, the Bible said it was round all along; if the world is flat, it was first to say that. If, perchance, there is something that cannot be rejiggered through metaphor to match the state of the world as we now know it, then “science will catch up with the Bible one day”. It is incredibly dishonest, but it’s not because Chey knows that evolution is real and is consciously trying to cover it up; instead, it’s because he has been misled, taken in by charlatans, seized upon in a moment when he himself admits he was at his most vulnerable. It is difficult to remember sometimes, but Tim Chey is a victim. A victim unconsciously re-inflicting the harms he has suffered upon others.
Then again, to what lengths can actions be excused by the background events that precipitated them? Is Chey totally blameless for creating Live Fast, Die Young? I don’t know if I can get on board with that notion. In any case, regardless of the extent of Chey’s volition in creating the movie, the film itself is alternately boring and detestable. It is lightened somewhat by William Thomas Jones, whose snarled rants about things like the Columbine shooters owning “every violent, pseudo-psycho, misfit, idiotic movie ever made” are highly entertaining. Overall, though, I cannot recommend this film even under the “so bad it’s good” theory. It simply is not good.