Touch - *

Touch is an uneven satire that wastes a potentially intriguing topic. Bill Hill (Christopher Walken) is a con-artist preacher who had a successful practice in the south, but after moving to L.A., he has found himself reduced to selling RVs. Bill stumbles upon Juvenal (Skeet Ulrich), a young man who appears to have true healing powers. Juvenal worked for several years as a missionary in Brazil, but now is a reclusive volunteer for an alcohol-rehab program. Bill sees a golden opportunity to restart his practice, and Juvenal’s healing would prove a gold mine. To help him win Juvenal over to his side, Bill recruits his former assistant Lynn (Bridget Fonda). Little does he know that a crusader for the return of traditional religious rites (Tom Arnold) also has his sights set on using Juvenal for his cause. Touch is a film that doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, and neither do its actors. Is it a serious film, a philosophical study of the place of religion, a satire, a farce? The different actors seem to be interpreting the material in differing ways, and director Paul Schrader is unable to force a consistent tone on the piece. There’s some promise in some of the material…examining the effect of a documented miracle on modern religion seems to work better than the tired satire of hypocritical preachers. Unfortunately, none of the various themes within Touch ever get fully exposed, but as the film meanders from topic to topic, the message of Touch is watered down.

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