Have you been following the career of Randy Wayne? No?
Well… given that I’ve asked that question, is there any surprise that I have? Probably not.
After being “discovered” on the British reality TV program Shipwrecked in 2002, this exceedingly photogenic Oklahoman landed a long string of parts in various TV programs, and then, in 2007, scored a big-time role as Luke Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning.
No, that’s not why I’ve been following his work of late.
Sometime after The Dukes, Wayne apparently decided to invest his career in faith-market films, capturing a great deal of attention for the church-produced teen-suicide drama To Save A Life (2009, released theatrically in 2010). After that, he worked on Gary Wheeler’s The Trial (among other projects) and now takes the starring role in Johnny Remo’s Hardflip—a skateboard pic about an abandoned child coming to grips, much later, with his self-absorbed father.
In a somewhat inspired bit of stuntcasting, the original Bo Duke, John Schneider, appears here as Jack, the architectural mogul who left Caleb’s mom, Bethany, to raise the boy on her own some twenty years ago. Now, as Bethany struggles to hold down two jobs in a crummy economy in order to pay high California rents, Jack shambles back into Caleb’s life through a series of circumstances that are actually fairly credible.
I honestly don’t think Schneider has ever been better than he is through the better part of this hard-edged drama about family and forgiveness—and I might say the same for Rosanna Arquette as Bethany. Both of those seasoned actors are given some great moments by a script that is—through the first two acts—both relatively daring and surprisingly true-to-life.
The really special thing about this film is that the faith which it expresses is not in preaching, moralizing, politics, or even saintly bearers of truth. Instead (for the most part), faith here is in the work that God can effect even when we’re not aware of what we’re doing to help. Bethany, for instance, has never exactly been a paragon of virtue; but all along the way she’s fought her less godly nature and tried to steer her life by Scripture and truth. And the very imperfect job of sowing seed that she does feels an awful lot like a parable. She doesn’t carefully plant all her seeds in one basket, as it were, but spreads them about pretty willy-nilly and hopes that some of it, somewhere, takes root… by the grace of God. Until the story jumps the rails, this feels like pretty confident and experienced writing and filmmaking for a relative newcomer.
But the real star here is, again, the charismatic and talented Randy Wayne… and the stunts. The producers recruited some top-flight skateboarders to perform and appear in minor speaking roles, so the action is all pretty mindblowing (at least, to the uninitiated).
The stake that these Christian athletes have in the picture, however, ends up undermining the third act. As message-bearing homeless men and fairy-god-skaters guide Caleb to a rather tepid and shopworn conclusion, you might end up feeling like you’ve been shortchanged… especially based on the promise of the film’s first 70 minutes or so. (Unless, of course, you get really, really jazzed about faith-oriented films that feel like a Billy Graham crusade down the stretch.)
You may also feel, as I do, that Randy Wayne might one day connect with some solid A-list, true three-act material that could make him a household name—in households of all faiths.