(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL is a crime thriller with a heavy parallel religious theme. Mike Taylor all but died when he lost his wife and now drinks to forget. He falls drunk in an alley where he witnesses a murder. He feels compelled to solve the crime even as the story he is uncovering becomes more and more complex. The film is full of little religious references--it takes place in a town called Cainsville--that eventually become a little too cute and cloying. While the filmmakers' intent was probably to make a film full of inspiration, they did much better with the murder story. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

There are really two films in BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. One of the stories is a complicated crime thriller and the other is about someone who, other than being the point-of-view character in the thriller, is really not an important character. The film is about his mixing into the crime story, but at the same time he is going through a crisis of religious faith. I am not saying the crime story is great or even above average, but it is intriguing. On the other hand, I have to admit that spiritual stories do not have much appeal for me. I found that half of the film cloying and much less of interest. For the most part it robs time from but does not get in the way of the thriller. But in one scene a character appears who it is suggested is an angel and who seems to disappear in a way that implies he could be nothing else. This scene verging on fantasy only undermines the non-spiritual side of the film and sabotages any realistic tone.

Mike Taylor had an ideal life as a doctor with a beautiful wife and son. When his wife died suddenly he found refuge in drinking and only sank lower and lower. Finally one night he finds himself in Cainsville, Texas asleep drunk in an alley when he sees a woman being killed by someone he does not see. When he wakes up he becomes obsessed with finding the murderer and solving a crime that the police are skeptical even happened. Soon he is involved with police corruption, with strippers, prostitutes, and a hired killer. All the while he is trying to repair his life and his relationship with his son and to come to an understanding with God. The film is intent on following Taylor's spiritual journey at expense of developing the other characters.

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL is a first film for both the writer and the director. Jason Ward is the director as well as the cinematographer, co-producer, and the composer. Marvin Faulkner wrote the film, plays the lead, and is also a co-producer. The IMDB lists no other films to either's credit. Given that this is the first film either has made, the results beat the expectation. The plot of the crime story is satisfying. Faulkner's script gets that complexity by periodically and frequently throwing in new characters to complicate matters. Occasionally the sound recording is a little off, but generally it is a competent first film.

There is a reasonably decent crime story clicking at the center of this film, but the writer's insistence on delivering a less than subtle spiritual message gums up the works. At times it even pushes the story over into fantasy. The filmmakers needed decide what kind of film they are making so that it is less of a bait and switch. I rate BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL was released on DVD on November 16, 2010. There is little in the packaging to suggest that this film has an inspirational agenda.

Film Credits:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper