by Alex Jackson What a waste. The cast assembled for George Ratliff's Salvation Boulevard is one for the ages. You have Pierce Bronson as super-evangelist Reverend Dan Day, Jennifer Connelly as infatuated housewife Gwen Vandeveer, Ciarán Hinds as Gwen's hard-ass Naval vet father Billy, and Ed Harris as pompous, bearded intellectual Dr. Paul Blaycock. These are traditionally serious dramatic actors in roles that lend themselves to caricature, yet they invest these characters with history and a point-of-view, providing substantive depth to the most basic of outlines. There's a real sense of professional pride to the performances here; Bronson, Connelly, Hinds, and Harris love these people and believe in them. Instead of coasting their way to their next paycheck, they're fucking earning it by doing some real fucking acting. But it's all for naught, as these great actors are completely squandered by a writer-director who doesn't care nearly as much about his chosen craft. (I'm reminded a bit of Matt Zoller Seitz's brilliant review of Sphere.) I'm obliged to report that not every performance in this film is created equal. Greg Kinnear stars as Carl, an "ex-Dead Head"/current member of Day's flock who's married to Gwen. Kinnear is not in the same league as the other four I mentioned. The only time he ever impressed me was in Paul Schrader's Auto Focus, and, of course, that's because the part was tailor-made for his shallow amiability. It's not that he's bad in Salvation Boulevard, he just reliably does whatever it is that Greg Kinnear does. Marisa Tomei, on the other hand, is very bad indeed as stoner security guard Honey Foster, who knew Carl back on the "Dead Head" circuit. Tomei goes for the cheap and easy laughs, but even then I don't blame her as much as I do a screenplay that hasn't given her the luxury of one dimension to play. Tomei doesn't do the work that Ratliff couldn't be bothered with, but she at least has enough courage to make a total fool of herself. What is there to say about the picture itself? It's Satire with a capital S, taking on that easiest of pickings: Christian fundamentalism. I won't bore you with plot details or analysis. Suffice it to say that believers will feel insulted, non-believers will feel coddled, and neither will feel particularly challenged to consider the other's perspective.