This article contains SPOILERS for Assassin 33 A.D... if such a thing is possible.
If you've ever puzzled over why the tenets of Christianity don't include time travel and machine guns, now you have your answer thanks to Assassin 33 A.D., the low-budget 2020 action movie about terrorists traveling back in time to murder Jesus. Seriously. If you couldn't tell from the poster (which looks like a pop-up ad for a New Age cult's iPhone game) ...
... this thing is a spectacularly bonkers trainwreck that combines the tale of Christ with the plot points of multiple early '90s James Cameron movies. And it's all in the service of teaching you about God, but with more bloody fight scenes than the average Sunday School lesson.
The movie opens with a former military dude named Brandt going for a drive with his kids and wife, inexplicably played by Heidi Montag from the MTV reality show The Hills. Before you even have time to say, "Isn't that Heidi Montag from the MTV reality show The Hills?" Brandt gets into a car accident, killing off his entire family in a flaming wreck and letting Montag take off after what was probably a single afternoon of work.
A short time later, we meet a group of young scientists led by Ram Goldstein -- "Ram" likely the most science-y name the screenwriter could think of. Because he's a lanky computer genius, Ram's attractive lab partner asks him out to dinner. For some reason, he invites her to dine with him in his parents' dank basement instead -- that reason being that basements are much cheaper to film in than crowded restaurants. Somehow the most difficult thing to swallow in this movie, featuring time machines and Jesus magic, is that this human woman eating steak in a filthy cellar on a date ends up becoming his girlfriend instead of the subject of multiple true crime podcasts.
The rest of the team consists of Felix and Simon, the "cool" Black guy character seemingly imported from a 25-year-old teen rom-com. Speaking of dogshit depictions of race, Ram's team works for Ahmed Akbar, Muslim billionaire and "world's most famous refugee," played by Mexican-American actor Gerardo Davila. Almost immediately, we find out that Ahmed is secretly working with generic Islamic terrorists seemingly imported from racist Facebook uncle's Tom Clancy fan-fiction.
Meanwhile, Brandt has lost faith in God following his family's death, degraded himself to the point of looking slightly more like porn parody Bradley Cooper.
Brandt works as Ahmed's head of security and occasional torturer. Ahmed forces Ram to finish building the time machine he didn't know he was building by murdering his parents. So Ram perfects the greatest scientific achievement in human history in what feels like an afternoon. After one brief test seems to go fine, they immediately send Brandt back in time. Why? Ahmed wants to stop "the man who killed my parents." Who's that? Jesus Christ.
It turns out that Ahmed's parents were Christians and died at Islamic fundamentalists' hands as a result (of bad screenwriting). So rather than use the time machine to, say, kill those guys or go back and give his parents a quick heads up, he wants to travel back in time to A.D. 33 and bump off Jesus. Surprisingly Brandt is totally down with this insane scheme he learned about moments ago and quickly assembles a team of mercenaries to hop inside the time machine, somehow knowing exactly when and where Jesus will be. After spying the one dude with a beard and a robe, Brandt actually shoots Christ in the head. Because, again, if we didn't make this clear, he's lost his faith.
In the present, our scrappy band of scientists escape and also travel back in time, but they're too late. So they go back in time even further creating time loops within time loops. And it gets pretty damn confusing. Imagine if Michael Bay was blackmailed into remaking Primer by Kirk Cameron, and you get the idea.
At one point, Ahmed succeeds in creating a "world without filthy Christian scum," but it's an apocalyptic wasteland. Why? Because he's created an existence "without forgiveness." You know, that abstract moral concept that is apparently exclusive to Christians who, by the way, haven't always been so super at forgiveness, either.
In the past, Simon actually gets to meet Jesus and reacts with all the awe and wonder of -- just kidding, he says this shit:
As for Jesus, he A) somehow magically speaks English and B) is played by former American Idol contestant/current real estate agent Jason Castro (whose parents are Columbian, by the way). Simon tries to convince Jesus not to go through with the resurrection because he's seen part of a bootleg copy of The Passion of the Christ. Jesus insists that he's going through with it, never pausing to question what a "movie" is, and as he leaves, drops a Terminator reference.
This is perhaps a good point to pause and point out that this batshit crazy premise was already the basis for an actual comedy sketch. Back in 2002, Mad TV aired a Terminator parody in which the T-100 is similarly sent back in time to save Jesus' life. And as an added bonus, it's only 4 minutes instead of 109.
Meanwhile, Ram's girlfriend Amy is shot by Brandt, who, not to put too fine a point on it, has lost his faith. Ram tries to save her by stripping down to his underwear and using his clothes as a compress.
Ram later meets up with Jesus and narrowly escapes a Roman Centurion who grabs Ram's underwear, exposing his ass crack.
Was this scene shoehorned in just to add a little eye candy for the ladies in the audience? No, it's all an elaborate build-up to the eventual reveal that Ram changed history, and the Bible verse Mark 14:51 - 52 is about him: "A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."
Jesus, of course, returns from the dead with a full-on explosion. And as Simon dies, Ram comforts him by telling him that Jesus will be waiting in Heaven with a frat house full of beer, which somehow pacifies this cartoon character of a man.
In the end, Ram accepts Jesus and learns the power of forgiveness, refusing to revenge-kill Brandt. Then Brandt turns good and turns on Ahmed. Then Ram stabs Ahmed to death.
Then every single death is negated by more time travel, including Heidi Montag's -- she gets saved by Ram after he travels back to make things right (while apparently giving every atrocity in human history a free pass).
Now obviously, there are a few things wrong with this movie. For one thing, the story's central arc is about our main character Ram Goldstein (a traditionally Jewish name), reluctantly accepting the teachings of Jesus Christ to please his girlfriend. And the shadowy cabal of menacing Muslims literally plotting to murder Jesus and obliterate the Christian faith feels like a panicky Fox News segment came to life and wrote this screenplay. It's especially dumb because Islam "reveres both Jesus and his mother" and still considers him a "prophet of God."
Naturally, there's a post-credits scene teeing up a sequel (one of the time-traveling versions of Ram and Amy get stuck 20 years in the future where America at war with ... The Anti-Christ), which if produced, may inadvertently prove that there is, in fact, no God.
Top Image: Timed Out Productions