I have two main thoughts on the 2016 religious film, Peter: The Redemption.
First off, John Rhys-Davies is a treasure. The veteran actor plays the role of Peter, the rock of the Church. The film focuses on Peter’s final days, locked away in a Roman prison and suffering torture at the hand of the Romans. He’s told repeatedly that all he has to do to win his freedom (and his life) is to publicly renounce his beliefs and confess that the Christians were behind the plot to set Rome on fire. While Peter waits for death, he is haunted by memories of the night that he denied knowing Jesus. He feels that he is not worthy to be crucified. He worries if he’s done enough to atone for his mistakes. Rhys-Davies gives a powerful performance, capturing both Peter’s anguish and his inner strength. This is probably one of the best performances that you’ll ever find in a low-budget religious film.
My other thought is that you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Stephen Baldwin plays the Emperor Nero. Baldwin plays Nero as being something of a wannabe hipster, desperately trying to convince everyone that he’s more interesting than he actually is and dreaming of rebuilding Rome in his own image. Baldwin’s Nero is a crazy conspiracy theorist, the type who often seem to be struggling to follow his own line of thought. There’s not a subtle moment to be found in Baldwin’s performance as Nero but, interestingly, his interpretation of the role is probably fairly close to being historically correct. By the account of most of the Roman historians who lived through and actually managed to survive his reign, Nero considered himself to be an artist and an intellectual and his dream was to be as acclaimed as a performer as he was an emperor. It’s been said that Nero was killed as much for his artistic pretensions as his administrative mistakes and that his final words were, “What an artist dies within me!,” and one can certainly believe that while watching Baldwin’s performance.
Unfortunately, Peter: The Redemption gets distracted by a subplot involving the blossoming relationship between a servant in Nero’s court and one of Peter’s guards. It’s the same basic story as Quo Vadis?, just told in a lot less time and on a much smaller budget. To be honest, I kind of liked the film’s low-rent version of Rome. Rome is usually presented as being this glamorous and impressive city but most historians of the era tend to emphasize the fact that the streets of Rome were often dirty and the walls were covered with frequently obscene graffiti. (In fact, graffiti was the main form of political protest in the Roman Empire.) No wonder Nero wanted to burn the place down.
Anyway, Peter: The Redemption is okay. It tells its story effectively enough and the performance of John Rhys Davies elevates every scene in which he appears. The film gets bogged down whenever it concentrates on the romance in Nero’s court but Baldwin and Rhys Davies keep things watchable.