Barabbas Blu-ray Review

Do you know the story of Barabbas? If you’re a Christian or theology major you probably know of the scripture that tells the story of the thief who is pardoned by mob when Pilate gave them an opportunity to save their savior just before the crucifixion. We are introduced to our title character at this seminal moment in his life but then taken back to a few years prior, when Barabbas is released from a stay in jail and heads back out into the world and ultimately towards his fate.

Billy Zane as Barabbas

BARABBAS was originally conceived as a television mini-series and the Blu-ray presentation leaves something to be desired. Clocking in what feels like 300 minutes (actually somewhere in the 200 range) BARABBAS is more than a little long, more than a little bit plodding… okay, it is boring. The vast majority of the film is focused on a slow progression, the proliferation of the teachings of Jesus, and though the story is told from the eyes of the title character it seems to lose focus constantly. Billy Zane has the title role but his BARABBAS is no more a character than any role he’s played in the past… well, except for that time in ZOOLANDER where he played “Billy Zane”, I liked that.

Billy Zane with two small character roles who happen to be trying to recruit him to get rid of the Romans.

This role isn’t exactly trading on the fame he’s built over the years. BARABBAS seems like the kind of movie Michael Caine was talking about when he won his Oscar for CIDER HOUSE RULES, the movies that pay the bills. Still, it’s an admirable storyline and he really tries. But watching Billy Zane ‘try’ to be Barabbas is like watching an deer try to hide from a car… it’s cute for a minute and then you just want it to do something, anything!

Barabbas speaks to his followers

All told, though, the story of BARABBAS is competently put together. The problem lies in the telling, Director Peter Young took a fair amount of artistic license. This could result in a really interesting movie about a side of this story we’ve never heard before, but instead results in a ‘movie’ experience that just doesn’t work from start to end. It isn’t very good. In fact it is pretty poor. One key to the strange affair that is BARABBAS is the character of Jesus… he’s presented as kind of a slouch, a mooch, and a stoner. Jesus, the somewhat troubled young man who doesn’t really have a purpose. You remember him from the bible stories, right? He’s almost a caricature of what you would hope and in a movie like this where you have to believe, to some degree, in at least the teachings of Jesus as they’re supposedly traversing the land.

Mary and Jesus

The problem is the man who plays Jesus is about as believable as Zane, which is to say not at all. At least Zane is somewhat credible in his role despite his relatively one-note performance. The young man who plays Jesus is just awful… so awful I don’t even want to give you his name. Regardless – This might be the type of movie you could enjoy if you like things loosely based on the bible and/or bible stories, but some of the liberties will likely turn you off as much as they did me. Sometimes competent just isn’t good enough.


Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.85:1) The video for BARABBAS is competent but nothing really immersive is presented. In fact, the costumes and set pieces really don’t do very well in high definition. I expected more, BARABBAS continues to give less.

Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is actually a highlight but when you watch BARABBAS and listen to it you’d never know. It’s the little engine that could for BARABBAS, keeping us invested and involved while the rest of the movie tries to wrest that immersion from your fingertips.


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