By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 13, 2016 at 8:26 PM

There’s a very strong chance you have never heard of "The Masked Saint." There’s an even stronger chance, however, that the next four words will make you wish you had: professional wrestling vigilante pastor.

In case that bizarre premise – one seemingly adapted from a Mad Libs puzzle or a fifth grader’s particularly inspired Catholic school doodles – wasn’t enough, the late great "Rowdy" Roddy Piper even shows up. Combine all that together, and one would imagine that the final product would have to be at least somewhat entertaining – even if it went horribly wrong, and maybe especially so.

Unfortunately, that assumption would be wrong, as "The Masked Saint" isn’t remotely amusing, moving or even just interesting – intentionally or unintentionally. Instead, it’s just another brutally dull, cinematically challenged Christian-aimed film with barely a passing knowledge of how to tell an engaging story. What a waste of a perfectly bonkers wrestling vigilante pastor story – and a supposedly true one at that (the wrestling pastor part, not so much the vigilante part).

In the ring, The Saint (Brett Granstaff) is a theology-themed wrestling champ, clad in a cross-emblazoned mask and leggings with "SAINT" written on the butt, and vanquishing his foes in the ring with quick moves and holds often topped off with a prayer (minus a half-star for none of the moves being called "The Excommunicator"). Out of the ring, however, he’s Chris Samuels, looking to leave his life in leggings for a new calling as a Southern Baptist pastor. His sleazy boss (Roddy Piper) has other plans, but Samuels still manages to leave the wrestling world – albeit minus his championship belt and plus a broken leg after his final bout with a Sting/The Undertaker lovechild named, obviously, The Reaper.

Still, along his wife (Lara Jean Chorostecki, Freddie Lounds from NBC’s dearly departed "Hannibal") and his daughter (T.J. McGibbon), Chris heads to off to serve a laughable parody of a troubled small town. Hookers and pimps serve as its welcoming party, the next door neighbor is a drunken wife beater and, most pressingly, no one’s going to the local church, which is leaky, low on funds and run by a chirpy egomaniac (Patrick McKenna) everyone hates. Desperate, Chris secretly puts the mask back, both in the ring to help raise money for the church and on the streets to dole out some vigilante justice in his troubled new town.

That’s right, Rod and Todd Flanders; the pimp-punching pastor superhero of your dreams has finally arrived. Well, kind of, as even Rod and Todd would probably find "The Masked Saint" a bore.  

Out of his costume, Chris is a complete stiff, both as written – judging by his early sermons, he’s likely the only wrestler in the sport’s history baffled by the spotlight and the idea of performance – and as acted by Granstaff, who would need to kick up the flavor several notches to qualify as white bread blandness. It’s not completely his fault; there’s just nothing to him or his character other than "generic nice guy," and when the script does bother giving him something to do or some emotional conflict – such as a brief bout of egomania – it’s so quick and sudden that it’s utterly unearned and unconvincing. Then again, Granstaff doesn’t exactly bring much to it either – and he’s also the co-writer.

The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better. Chorostecki is stuck in a thankless supportive wife role, while McGibbon and McKenna try way too hard, cranking their respective precociousness and pompousness up to 11. Overall, no performance in the film goes too far above flavorless cornball community theater levels of quality.

Things don’t improve when the titular saint is indeed masked either, mostly because the screenplay – from Granstaff and Scott Crowell – can’t decide what story it’s telling. Is it about Chris turning into a vigilante? Or is it about him returning to the ring in secret? Instead of focusing on one or the other, "The Masked Saint" throws both in – plus lingering on a few others, like Chris’ battle with his main patron’s bloated ego (not to mention his own) and a surprise pregnancy – making the movie feel like a bunch of undercooked subplots, robbed of much actual drama, rather than a cohesive story.

The resulting clunky plotting leads to so many questions. Why does the pregnancy subplot get so much time and effort when it’s an utter non-factor by the end? Why does one of The Saint’s rescued victims try to hide his identity, only to give the police an obvious piece of evidence to locate him with? How exactly scripted are these wrestling matches? How did so many people – one with a gun – get backstage at a major sporting event for a big climactic confrontation? And why do the first five minutes exist, like, at all?

The movie might have been able to slide by with those holes if it was made and performed with some energy or craft, but director Warren P. Sonoda delivers neither. Under his control, each attempt at a joke lands with a thud, and each attempt at drama arrives lifeless, suffocated by blandly heavy-handed filmmaking and a mawkish score – used seemingly wall-to-wall to pound the audience with emotions that aren’t there. It comes alive a little bit for the wrestling sequences, but even so, Sonoda struggles to summon much excitement for supposedly big matches that are clearly being held in what looks like a high school gymnasium.

It’s just an uninvolving mess, leading to a cliché, predictable "save the church" big fight finale. And when a wrestling masked vigilante pastor movie plays cliché and predictable, something has gone horribly wrong.

There’s a decent message somewhere in "The Masked Saint" about actually going out and doing something to better your world rather than simply praying and relying on that alone to do the trick. However, considering it comes packaged in a movie that awkwardly never quite comes out against its lead’s vigilantism (his family and community seem oddly more concerned about his wrestling than his law-breaking) it’s a bungled point – almost as bungled as its central concept, one with potential for entertainment and intrigue but instead played boringly earnest.

Considering the overall lacking quality in this recent spat of big screen Christian entertainments, I didn’t think it was possible for one to actually disappoint me. But thanks to "The Masked Saint," here we are. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.