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A funny thing about the 2016 film Priceless is that it is a film with a bit of religion to it. I had a tiny inkling about this before taking it on to review, but hey, why not go into things with an open mind, right? And as a new Dad perhaps there's some sort of spirituality that's been imbued into me that I'm not aware of. Or maybe I don't, I don't know.
Something you learn about when it comes to films like this is the faces you may recognize and wonder how they got there, and the film does have a decent cast to them, but first a word about the story and background. There is an Australian Christian rock duo named for King and Country, which comprises Joel Smallbone and his brother Luke. A third brother, Ben, directed the film, from a screenplay by Chris Dowling (Where Hope Grows) and Tyler Poelle. Joel plays James, a guy estranged from his wife and daughter and down on his luck when he's given the offer to drive a truck for a job, with no strings attached and no questions asked. When he learns about the cargo, James has a crisis of conscience that proves to be more than he anticipated.
I guess there's a certain sense of religious symbolism flowing throughout Priceless starting with its protagonist; James is a bit of a loner in his life and takes this job to drive out of necessity. Lost soul, long challenging quest or something like that. There's certainly a brooding mysterious charisma about Joel that to an outsider is appealing, though his dramatic range is limited. So he's helped out by some familiar faces. Bianca Santos (Ouija) and Amber Midthunder (Hell or High Water) play Antonia and Maria, sisters whom he encounters early in the trip. Jim Parrack (Fury) plays Garo, the guy to whom the cargo is delivered. And rounding out the actors with notable chops? David Koechner (Anchorman) plays Garo as Gale, a hotel owner who helps James out.
It's a lean and somewhat aspirational cast, and with the pieces in place, the story hits all the marks you would expect a film like this to do. James feels a conflict within himself, and through faith and a little bit of love finds himself doing things he perhaps wouldn't have considered before. Antonia and Maria provide him information on looking within himself in finding faith which he gradually comes to accept through the film, and while they find themselves in dire circumstances at times they feel like they'll overcome it because of the faith they have. Simple, right?
We've talked about Smallbone before and his performance is fine. Santos and Midthunder are okay too (Midthunder was on the cusp of breakout performances in 2016 apparently, but the surprise of the group is Koechner. He conveys a sense of elder wisdom in a performance I wasn't anticipating he had, and he's quietly proving to be a solid dramatic performer whom I wouldn't mind seeing more out of in the future.
All in all, Priceless doesn't reinvent the wheel but does make the wheel well new and interesting to look at. It doesn't really make me want to seek higher faith out any more or less if that's what the goal was, and when you look at the film in a vacuum, it's not doing anything that scores before it have tried in the past.
The 2.40:1 presentation of Priceless uses the AVC encode and looks better than I was expecting though to be fair, I wasn't sure what to expect. The browns and greens of New Mexico look solid, transitioning to blues and darkly lit rooms just fine with no oversaturation or haloing to distract from the viewing. Flesh tones appear natural and the image possesses a slight multi-dimensional feel in the exteriors. Things aren't as sharp as they should be but not a bad film to look at.
Even the DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track gets a bit of work, beginning with a car crash. The environmental effects of the film like the running truck or the exteriors as a truck is moved are natural and help convince when it comes to immersion for the production. Dialogue is well-balanced and doesn't need to be adjusted, and overall the film sounds as good as it looks.
Well you've got a performance from the band which, well, isn't a surprise considering they're all over the film. Then you have a making of on it, "The Heart Behind the Film," some forgettable deleted scenes, and the trailer.
Priceless sets itself up as a nontraditional Christian film initially, but gradually plays itself out like one because there isn't much room to go with it. The supporting cast are decent, and the transfer/soundtrack are pretty good but past that, it's inoffensive and the lack of boldness shows. I don't think it preaches more than any other film of its type and it's different for a second. Maybe if your family has it on you'll watch it?