The Investigator Sep12

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The Investigator

Everybody loves Raymond. His brother, Rich, on the other hand…not so much. At least that’s the premise behind The Investigator, the new faith-based feature film from Gabriel’s Messenger Films. Screenwriter Rich Romano (actor Ray Romano’s brother) drew on events from his own life as inspiration for the story.

TheInvestigatorPosterThe Investigator
Gabriel’s Messenger Films

Police sergeant James Buanacore (Wade Williams), a 20-year veteran of the force, undergoes a series of setbacks that fuels a descent into anger and depression that threatens to destroy his career, his marriage and his faith in God. Buanacore’s brother Paul (David M. Sanborn), a rising-star actor, pulls some strings to get him an interview with a local Christian high school as a baseball coach and history teacher. When Buanacore balks at teaching history, the principal suggests he put his degree in criminal justice to work and teach what he knows.

Buanacore does just that, employing his criminal investigation skills to encourage his students to seek answers for their questions; to do their own investigations and not just blindly accept someone else’s word. The students challenge Buanacore to conduct an investigation into past events ranging from the Kennedy assassination to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ – a challenge that both Buanacore and his students accept.

Through his interaction with the political powers-that-be within the educational establishment, a classroom full of high school students that become genuinely engaged in the subject he’s teaching and mentoring a group of misfit athletes into a cohesive, competitive team on the baseball diamond, Buanacore reconnects with both his family and his faith.

Filmed on location in Pinellas County in Florida, The Investigator was ably directed by Curtis Graham, produced by Nicole Abisinio (who also appears in the film as Buanacore’s wife, Stephanie), and boasted a strong crew, including Emmy Award winning costume designer Dana Campbell and camera operator Bob Scott. As a result of their combined efforts, The Investigator is a great looking film. Ms. Abisinio cut her filmmaking teeth as a casting director, and it shows. The acting, from Williams and Sanborn on down, is uniformly top-notch (a refreshing break from so many faith-based films that loudly proclaim “In the tradition of Facing the Giants,” which is usually code for “We used volunteer actors from our church and didn’t pay them.”).

The primary weakness in the film, at least for me, was the script. It felt like it tried to be too many different types of films. It could have been a cop film (like Serpico or Bad Lieutenant), a family drama (like Ordinary People), a sports film (like Remember the Titans or Hoosiers) or teacher film (like Stand and Deliver or Mr. Holland’s Opus). I think The Investigator would have been a stronger film had it focused one particular genre. Instead it felt a little disjointed in its focus, as if it were spread a little too thin.

ProdStill04Bottom line: The Investigator is a strong entry into the burgeoning faith-based film market. It delivers a gutsy message of encouraging viewers to actually investigate their beliefs for themselves, rather than accepting assertions on blind faith. The film doesn’t shy away from some real-world elements, such as drug abuse, murder and bad things happening to good people, but neither is it gratuitous in its depiction of these realities. It is certainly appropriate for junior high school kids and up.