By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
If you’re looking for a quality movie the whole family can watch, look no further than “The Identical.”
Produced by City of Peace Films, “The Identical” follows the life of Ryan Wade (played by a newcomer, Blake Rayne), a young man bearing a striking resemblance to The King of Rock ‘N Roll. Rayne worked for a time as an Elvis impersonator after winning a impersonator competition.
The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Finding your place in life
Wade rejects his pastor father’s desire for him to become a man of the cloth, choosing instead to become a music man. Wade overcomes a number of obstacles and failures in pursuit of his dream and being who God made him to be, all the while not knowing about a family secret concerning his true identity.
The movie premiered last spring at the Nashville Film Festival and won the Southwest Airlines Audience Choice Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature.
Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd provide their star power to the film as Ryan’s adopted parents. The secret that Ryan does not suspect is that he was separated at birth from his twin brother; Ryan’s biological parents gave him up during the Great Depression because they could not take care of two children. The brother, Drexel Hemsley, goes on to become a huge rock star.
Supporting stars include Seth Green, Joe Pantoliano and Amanda Crew.
City of Peace Films President and CEO Yochanan Marcellino discussed the film with me recently.
They came across the script, which they loved. Liotta topped their list of actors for the film due to his work in “Goodfellas.” The key to attracting talent like Liotta and Judd was to first gather Hollywood veterans to work behind the camera, Marcellino said, including the casting agent.
Role hits home for Liotta
While reading the script, Liotta broke down crying, Marcellino said. No one had known that the star had been adopted. Playing the role of a preacher led to Liotta picking up a Bible for the first time in his life, Marcellino said.
“I’m not sure he came full circle, but he is on a journey,” Marcellino said.
In a promotional video, Liotta says, “I think this film is so strong and compelling.”
The movie has such biblical themes as marriage between one man and one woman, purity before marriage, respect for parents and ministers who are faithful, he said. Liotta’s character is a sinner, but he is not a charlatan. Respect for Israel is another theme, and the nation plays a role in the film as the Six-Day War of 1967 is featured.
“As a nation we need to stand with Israel,” Marcellino said.
“The Identical” is Marcellino’s first film. He founded City of Peace Films in Nashville in 2009 as a way to bring “stories with redeeming value to the world.”
Although he is new to film, Marcellino is a veteran of the music world. Growing up in southern California, Marcellino was around the recording industry as his father, Motown executive Jerry Marcellino produced such stars as Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and many more. The younger Marcellino went into the family business of producing music and worked with singers like Crystal Gayle and Kansas. Later, he became a manager for various musicians and founded record labels.
One reason “The Identical” script appealed to him was because it highlighted the 1950s-’60s era where his dad worked in music and the 1970s where he got involved. Marcellino said he co-produced all the songs and co-wrote some of them.
In addition to covering family themes, “The Identical” also is a family film because Marcellino worked on it with his father and his sons Jordan and Dustin, who served as director.
The Marcellino family is working on several new projects with the same theme of redemption found in “The Identical” and of the same production quality.
“We’re excited to see what God wants to do,” he said. “This film competes with the highest levels in Hollywood in acting and cinematography. For years I had to hear ‘When will Christians step up and compete in film?’”