Fire and brimstone doc is saved by a terrific first half.
HELLBOUND? (Kevin Miller). 85 minutes. Opens Friday (October 26). See listing. Rating: NNN
Discussing the indoctrination of eternal damnation is bound to bring up some incendiary ideas. Hellbound? balances controversy with enough thoughtful, intellectual deconstructions to fill a satisfying one-hour TV special (commercial breaks included). Unfortunately, at feature length, it begins to feel like purgatory.
In the first half, Kevin Miller's documentary introduces an array of well-spoken talking heads who walk us through the varying definitions and interpretations of hell, discussing why certain religions need to exercise the idea of fire and brimstone the way a judge wields a gavel.
Some, like atheist fiction writer Robert McKee, view hell as a necessary fiction that gives life meaning. Others believe 9/11 was a taste of hell on earth to punish America for homosexuality.
Then Miller plays his boldest card, bringing people like Hitler and Bin Laden into the equation to remind us why hell was such a popular notion to begin with. Sometimes earthly retribution just doesn't seem sufficient.
It's all fascinating stuff until the doc overstays its welcome, reiterating its arguments and shooting for a climactic emotional payoff that feels as insincere as memorizing the Hail Mary.