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Film / Salvation Boulevard

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Salvation Boulevard is a 2011 Comedy / Drama film starring Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Jim Gaffigan. Carl Vandemeer (Kinnear) is an ex-Deadhead, married to Gwen (Connelly), and attends the Church of the Third Millenium, a mega-church headed by the charismatic Pastor Dan Day (Brosnan). After a post-debate nightcap with atheist professor Dr. Paul Blaylock (Harris) goes horribly wrong, Carl attempts to do the right thing, and finds that the church which has been his support for all of these years may have become his enemy.


This film exhibits the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Pastor Dan accidentally shoots Dr. Blaylock with his antique pistol, and immediately panics at how it looks, thinking he killed him. He therefore attempts to make it look like a suicide. It turns out that Blaylock survived and knew it was accidental however. He still goes to prison, presumably as a result of his cover-up, as he tampered with the evidence.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Pastor Dan breaks the cardinal rule-you must never point any gun at another person if not intending to fire it. Granted, he likely didn't believe it was loaded, since it's an antique pistol. Nonetheless, the fact it was shows why that's a bad idea.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In-Universe, Jerry tries to justify his intended murder of Carl by citing Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. Carl incredulously points out that he totally missed the point-Abraham didn't sacrifice Isaac, since the entire thing was just a test by God. Jerry doesn't listen, naturally.
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  • Bullying a Dragon: Dan foolishly starts slapping Guzman when his video gets mixed up. Guzman stabs him.
  • Camera Spoofing: Carl noticed a security camera as they left on the fateful night. But when he looks at the footage again, there's no sign of Pastor Dan and him arriving or leaving. Jerry, one of the camera-men for the church, also does tech support for the campus security office and it's implied that he altered the tapes.
  • The Cartel: Guzman is portrayed as a religious version of this, claiming that they're in Mexico, with the guards in his house walking around with automatic weapons and speaking Spanish. In actuality, they're in a quiet suburban neighborhood and Guzman is in construction.
  • Cassandra Truth: Carl finds his wife and father-in-law both refuse to believe what Jerry did. He also was warned by a security guard not to speak with the police, since half are Pastor Dan's parishioners, so they might arrest him for shooting the professor. Eventually though his father-in-law grows suspicious and realizes Dan is lying.
  • Corrupt Church: Debatable. Pastor Dan does a lot of shady things in the course of the movie, and some of his followers are willing to take even more extreme actions, but he seems sincere in his beliefs, justifying his shady actions in that it advances the cause of the church, and will save more souls.
  • Dirty Cop: One of Pastor Dan's followers is a police detective who assists Jerry in trying to murder Carl.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Jerry tries to set Carl on fire by using a taser, which ends up instead doing that to him and the dirty cop who helped him accidentally.
  • Good Stepfather: Angie seems to prefer her stepfather Carl over her mother Gwen.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted with Blaylock. Though he is firmly anti-religious, he treats the believers cordially and even views Pastor Dan as a worthy opponent in light of their debate.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: While attempting to illustrate a point about religion providing a moral compass to humanity, Pastor Dan picks up one of Dr. Blaylock's antique guns and waves it around, accidentally shooting Blaylock.
  • Irony: Pastor Dan is arguing with Blaylock that without God, people would just kill with abandon. He waves around Blaylock's antique pistol while doing so, which goes off and shoots Blaylock in the head accidentally. The efforts Pastor Dan goes to cover this up further undermine his point. Even worse, it was a result of him thinking Blaylock was dead and no one would ever believe it was accidental. It turns out Blaylock survived and tells everyone the whole thing was accidental, making Pastor Dan's crimes (along with those of his followers) completely pointless.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • Inverted. It was an accident, but Pastor Dan is worried that it might be seen as manslaughter, if not coldblooded murder, so he tries to make it look like a suicide.
    • Later, Jerry is implied to be trying to do the same when he asks Carl which hand he uses before attempting to shoot him in the head.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Near the end of the film, a bolt of lightning on a clear day just misses Carl, striking right behind him. He then brings his previously-handcuffed hands in front of him and stares at them with amazement.
  • Near-Death Experience: Pastor Dan has one after he's stabbed. Unlike many of them, it's explicitly shown to be a hallucination in which he mistakenly views Carl as an angel. He later bases his new ministry in prison on it.
  • Nice Guy: Carl. He never shows anything but kindness to others and attempts to settle things peacefully. Even after Pastor Dan completely screws him over, he tells him he's going to Heaven after the latter is certain he'll die.
  • Recovered Addict: Carl, who used to heavily drink and use drugs along with having lots of promiscuous sex before he was born-again. Pastor Dan uses his change of heart as proof of God, but Blaylock suggests that religion has become his new drug.
  • The Teetotaler: Carl turns down the nightcap due to being a recovering alcoholic.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A series of stills and short excerpts of text explain where the main characters wound up.
  • Worthy Opponent: Blaylock considers Pastor Dan this after their debate, and proposes they write a book together which discussing their views. Pastor Dan is keen on the idea, but unfortunately then the accident happens.