Directed by: Bill Duke (Hoodlum)
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Taraji P. Henson, Maeve Quinlan, Kevin Hart, Eddie Cibrian
Despite having a title that sounds more like the name of some new Vin Diesel actioner (I can hear the announcer on the trailer, “Vin Diesel is … Not Easily Broken”), this movie is actually the latest in the now-lucrative business of inspirational Christian filmmaking. Based on a novel by Bishop T.D. Jakes, Not Easily Broken is akin to a Tyler Perry film—with that film’s African-American target audience—by way of Sherwood Baptist Church and Alex Kendrick’s Fireproof (2008), which has the same message about the connection between God and marriage. However, Not Easily Broken is better in most respects than those films. By putting veteran filmmaker Bill Duke behind the camera and the likable Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson in the leads, the picture manages to sidestep the painful amateurism of Perry and—even more so—that of Fireproof. It all at least looks and feels like a real motion picture.
The pity, then, lies in the fact that it’s incredibly dull. The plot revolves around the marital strife of a struggling couple (Chestnut and Henson) and the melodrama that follows them around like Jason Vorhees chases after a pack of teenagers. Soap can be entertaining when reveled in, but in this case, it’s all a bit listless, never amounting to much more than matrimonial quarrelling and the idea that the day-to-day problems of an affluent married couple are somehow interesting.
It’s a movie where nothing seems natural. Characterizations are hacked together; supposedly harrowing events pop up out of the blue only to lead to nothing of consequence; and entire plotlines and characters are dropped or forgotten. And all of it is dramatically inert. The film is like the Rock of Gibraltar of uplifting Christian movies.
Maybe the most interesting aspect of Not Easily Broken is how tacked on the Christian facets of the film feel. Yes, the entire point of the film is woven into the title, with the idea being that a marriage that includes God is “not easily broken.” But by the end of the film, the protagonists’ marriage isn’t saved by religion, but rather by their own devices and maturation. There is never a mention of Jesus. No one is saved. No one prays. And there are never any great revelations. Instead, it’s almost as if God is handled in a more metaphysical, spiritual sense, with a dash of religion thrown in for good measure, which is probably just more confusing than it is interesting. But at least it’s something, a quality which is in short supply throughout most of Not Easily Broken. Rated PG-13 for sexual references and thematic elements.