It’s 7:56 pm
In my very first first review of a Christian movie, “Taken By Grace” I related how I stumbled across the genre,a late night viewing of a film called “Flywheel”. I have reviewed a few more faith based films since then but trying to find the original film has proved fruitless. I had looked at a bookstore who was going out of business,countless Goodwills,Salvation Army,Disc Replay and Family Video stores but had always struck out.
So it wasn’t a complete surprise that I finally found “Flywheel” at my newest hunting area,the local library. I have found so many unexpected great finds in there and when I saw “Flywheel” staring back at me….
Jay Austin (Alex Kendrick) owns and operates a used car lot called “Jay Austin Motors” in the town of Albany,Georgia. He has a small sales staff,a porter and a mechanic.
Business has been slow as of late so every chance and every effort to sell cars is made,even if it means lying about a car pre-condition state or the price.
Jay is admired by Bernie (Tracy Goode),his right hand man,who his ability to overcharge and still able to make a sale. He even overcharges his own pastor by 2,500.00 for a used car that the pastor is buying for his college bound daughter. The two salesmen often bet on how much profit Jay will make on a sale. When the minister prays with Jay after buying the car,God begins to speak to Jay’s heart but Jay resists.
Besides running his business,Jay has also bought a old roadster and has Max fixing it for him. Max (Walter Burnett) is trying to figure out what is wrong with it as he has tried many things to no avail.
On the surface,Jay seems to have it all,his own business,a nice family and a cool car to restore. But Jay Austin has serious problems. He is in deep debt to the bank and is on the verge of losing his lot,his home is starting to fall apart as he becomes verbally abusive towards his wife Judy (Janet Lee Dapper). He isn’t spending any quality time with his son,his relationship with his own dad is asunder because Jay pulled away.
Things get worse for Jay as he attends church yet is caught by Judy for putting a empty tithe envelope in the offering tray. Max tells his his roadster needs a new flywheel,without it,the car will not run at all.
As the pressure mounts,Jay overhears Bernie straight up fleece a woman into buying a car she can’t afford. When he calls Bernie out on it,Bernie mocks Jay,saying how Jay himself taught Bernie how to make a sale.
Finally Jay prays to God and begs for forgiveness and help. The Holy Spirit gives Jay peace and Jay apologizes to his wife. He then decides to play it straight at the business which causes Bernie to leave leaving Jay short-handed.
He hires young Kevin Cantrell,who can only work six weeks before heading back to college. He teaches Kevin the right and honest way to sell despite Kevin wondering why Jay doesn’t sell his cars for higher profit.
Max finds a flywheel and finishes the roadster,its now running and while things are still bleak,Jay is able to hold off the bank for a few weeks. But time is running out and unless there is a miracle,the Austins could still lose everything. Jay owes the bank about 25,000 dollars and unless he can get it in three days,the bank is going to seize Jay’s lot.
Jay is at home reading the newspaper when the news comes on and a special report is shown highlighting the shady tactics of used car lots and their salesmen. They show 5 different dealers who are secretly recorded sharing how they rip off people. Then they mention Jay Austin Motors. It turns out that Kevin wasn’t a college student,he was a undercover journalist and he was recording on how Jay ran his business. It’s shown that Jay was honest and compassionate in his dealings,how he was doing it right.
The next day when Jay comes to work,the lot is full of people wanting to buy a car from a honest man. Jay sells his entire inventory and is able to pay off his debts and actually make a nice profit. Jay praises God and prays his thankfulness. It looks like Jay is on the road to good things,including a heartfelt talk with his dad until ex-employee Bernie is shown on TV claiming how Jay had overcharged many customers in the past,threatening to undo all of the goodwill Jay and his team has built up.
Jay needs one more miracle but he is going to have to do a couple of things to ensure that he gets it……and how will the public feel about hearing how Jay wasn’t always so honest? Things are about to get down and dirty as Jay’s new faith in God is about to be put to the test….
Yeah,I loved this movie. I think it has tremendous heart and surprisingly strong acting considering that the cast had ZERO experience in making or acting in a movie.
The Kendrick brothers,Alex (who starred as Jay) wrote and directed the movie Stephen also contributed to the story as well as produced.
“Flywheel” was a complete “learn as you go” production for everyone concerned. Much like Kelly and Jefferson Moore,most of their crew and actors were church members who stepped in and worked hard.
While not professionally trained,the fact these folks knew each other in their regular lives and through church enables them do scenes that feel completely natural. Alex Kendrick definitely has the strongest acting chops,his Jay Austin is a smoldering powder keg and the way he talks to Judy before his change is downright scary,his anger is raw and feels completely real.
Two standouts are Tracy Goode as Bernie,Goode has real flair for comedy,you can’t get upset with him because he is right when calls Jay out for coming down on Bernie’s sales tactics,Jay did teach him and taught him very well. His being upset at Jay is sort of justified but his refusal to change after Jay does sows the seeds for a dramatic finish.
Walter Burnett as Max the mechanic is also a standout,in the behind the scenes feature,Walter was supposed to have one line but Alex and Stephen kept on adding to his role,making it one of the most important. Again,a non-actor completely shines here as Max has a lot to share even if he doesn’t have much to say.
After “Flywheel” did very well,the Kendrick brothers went to do “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof” and landing a deal with Sony Pictures. Well Sony went back and cleaned up “Flywheel” and re-releasing it. It looks and sounds great.
“Flywheel” is a run time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. As much as I hate to say this but I would have give this movie a “PG” for one pretty surprising scene between Jay and Judy.
There are tons of great special features including commentary by the Kendrick brothers,Alex and Stephen. There is a gag reel and a “making of” feature as well.
This was my first faith based movie and one that was made with heart,love and for all the right reasons. This is a innocent film and doesn’t have any of the usual Hollywood BS that would later stink up the genre.
I gave “Flywheel” a thumb’s up.
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