"A controversial gimmick in search of a better narrative."
A one-note movie that beats its drum loudly and often, The Believer hinges upon the viewer's capacity for accepting a Jewish Nazi Skinhead. It's not Ryan Gosling's intense performance that prevents us from buying the whole package. It's Henry Bean's lecturing and self-satisfied screenplay that keeps this mildly compelling character study from evolving into anything more worthwhile.Gosling's Danny Bolint is a miltantly self-hating Jew. Why? Not sure really. Through use of some clumsily overdramatic flashbacks, we learn that Danny enraged his Hebrew School teachers by challenging long accepted laws of Judaism. OK, fine. So Danny learns some untraditional teachings from his father. How that evolves into violent hatred for his own religion is anyone's guess.
The Believer is packed to the gills with various speeches, lectures and theological bantering. Much of it ends with someone getting a baseball bat to the head. In many respects, The Believer feels a whole lot like American History X with a Semitic gimmick.
Much of what does work in the film can be attributed to Gosling's excellent work as the hate-filled Danny, though his supporting cast is a mixed bag at best. (When Theresa Russell is the big standout, that's not exactly a great thing.)Created more to incite than to entertain, and that's just fine. But this one's loaded with more cornball dialogue and convenient plot holes than your average Sandra Bullock flick, which makes The Believer a tough movie to take all that seriously.