A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
A sure sign that a character is a pimp? He’s the only guy in town who dons a tailored vest as casual everyday wear. How do you know a cop is corrupt? When he looks like a wizened lowlife straight out of an R. Crumb comic book. And what might be a clue that an innocent-no-more female has been sexually used and abused? Her demure white-lace dress is torn at the shoulder, of course.
In another era, “Priceless” could have made for a nasty grindhouse-era melodrama involving the human trafficking of vulnerable young women who are forced into prostitution by unsavory male slavers.
But not in the hands of Joel and Luke Smallbone, the clean-cut Aussie-born siblings behind For King & Country, a Grammy-winning Christian pop group that has escaped my notice until now. In a brief intro to a special Thursday-night showing of this supposedly inspirational yet incredibly enervating parable, Joel—the film’s leading man, who devised the story with brother Luke—actually employed the the notion of chivalry to explain their intentions. That knights-to-the-rescue notion is further expanded upon by Joel in the press notes: “Part of the DNA of For King & Country is this idea of respect and honor in relationships and women being priceless.” Meaning, in this case, not for sale.
But while the intentions behind “Priceless” might be honorable, the results are much less so. It was shot in just 17 days—and looks it—primarily in and around Albuquerque, NM. What should be a lean and taut thriller based on true stories is about as exciting as watching wet socks bounce around in the dryer. Too much about it feels cheap and generic, save for moments where characters enigmatically acknowledge a belief in a higher power in hushed reverent tones.