Sonny Dewey (Robert Duvall) is the charismatic preacher of a fundamentalist Texas church, until his short temper gets him in serious trouble. He runs off to Louisiana, becomes part of a small community, and starts a new church where he brings hope and salvation to his loyal followers.
Robert Duvall is a powerhouse; he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in this movie - and it's wonderful. He is so convincing as the southern evangelist that it really surprised me to hear him speak in his normal voice in the Extras. Sonny is completely devoted to saving people and spreading the Word, but we suspect he may have a violent and unsavory past, and that dichotomy keeps our eyes glued to Duvall at all times. As Sonny, he's driven, tireless, and simply inspired.
While Duvall gets excellent performances out of many local, non-actors in small parts, there were several casting choices that didn't seem right to me: Farrah Fawcett plays Sonny's wife and she's so recognizable as a former "Angel" and glamour girl that it was hard to buy her as a quiet, plain-Jane. June Carter Cash plays Sonny's mother although she is only two years older than Duvall - and looks it, and that was distracting. And Billy Bob Thornton has a very small role as a troublemaker that was never developed; I kept expecting him to show up again and do something important and worthy of his stature.
The term "tour de force" can certainly be applied to Duvall's performance; he is riveting, charismatic, and utterly believable. Interestingly, the story makes him neither a hero nor a villain; it is left up to the viewer to decide who exactly "the Apostle" is. Highly recommended.