[box cover]

The Omega Code

Goodtimes Home Video

Starring Casper Van Dien, Michael York, Catherine Oxenberg, Michael Ironside

Written by Stephan Blinn and Hollis Barton
Directed by Robert Marcarelli

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When Fight Club hit the big screen in 1999, moral conservatives found ample time to decry that movie's icy surface of brutal nihilism — but they also had something to celebrate. Barely cracking the box office top 10 that same weekend was Trinity Broadcasting Network's Biblical thriller The Omega Code. Although it only scraped in an opening $2.4 million, it had the highest per-screen average of the weekend, besting not only Fight Club, but other huge Hollywood muscle like Double Jeopardy, The Story of Us, and Best Picture-winner American Beauty.

Producers of The Omega Code, including TBN on-air personality Paul Crouch, Sr., made the shrewd move of refusing a spendy media campaign to promote the movie, and spread word instead through the churches. The mere idea of an entertainment in the slick style of Hollywood thrillers, but lacking vulgar language, sexual content and secular themes, struck a chord. Before they knew it, TBN had scored a modest box-office coup with a film that the greater movie-going public had never even heard of — and one that righteous pontificator Pat Robertson described as "Thrilling!"

Casper Van Dien stars as Gillen Lane, a renowned self-help guru and mythology expert who preaches humanist mantras but is fascinated by the idea that the Bible contains hidden codes which hold the secrets of the future and the ingredients of Armageddon.

Despite the burden placed on his marriage by his demanding work, Lane is enlisted by European Union Chairman Stone Alexander (Michael York) as a spokesman for the benefits of a one-world government. But it doesn't take long before Lane discovers that Alexander has been decoding and manipulating Biblical prophecies to spur on the acts of the Book of Revelation and satisfy his own lust for power.

Made for only $8 million (it eventually grossed $12 million), The Omega Code is unusual within the Christian film genre in that it spins a fairly compelling, fast-paced yarn, backed by solid production values, a mostly fine cast, and withholds from preaching or launching polemics at the audience. The Christian subtext is fairly obvious, as the character of Lane, in many ways, retraces the steps of the Prodigal Son.

As simply a drama, The Omega Code falls neatly into the ambitious-but-mediocre pool of indie B-movies. Although its premise of hidden Bible codes is a provocative subject straight from the X-Files-ish airwaves of late-night radio speculator Art Bell, the execution of said subject rarely rises above pedestrian. Like too many of the Hollywood films it emulates, The Omega Code is rife with forced conflicts, plot holes, and familiar chase scenes.

Interestingly, the religious text of the film opens up some problematic dramatic questions. For instance, why would the Anti-Christ purposefully instigate the events of Armageddon, knowing that they would result in the Second Coming of Christ? And, in the face of the Biblical end of the world, does it really matter if Lane escapes his murderous pursuers?

It also must be said that the ending is, naturally, a little too predictable for a film that builds up to it with the promise of suspense. And the final, much-anticipated, code-deciphered prophecy is a bit weak. York may be credited with saving much of the film in a strong, charismatic performance as the devilish Alexander, but Van Dien is an altogether awful actor who never once sells his character as forceful personality or competent guru/professor. Also with Catherine Oxenberg and Michael Ironside.

Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.0 Dolby Surround. Includes a 30-minute "making-of" featurette, as well as textual explanations of the alleged "Bible codes." Keep case.

— Gregory P. Dorr

Get it at Reel.com

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