(1997) Stopping at the scene of an automobile accident to speak to a pair of young victims, who appear to be dying inside their vehicle, in order that they might accept Jesus as their savior; preaching at Pentecostal Holiness tent revivals; befriending Joe (Billy Joe Shaver), whom he has redeemed from a path to perdition, Euliss "Sonny" Dewey (Robert Duvall) has been an evangelical minister of the Lord since he was twelve years old.
In New Boston, Texas, where he grew up attending black church services, he lives with his mother (June Carter Cash); he struggles (getting drunk and carrying a gun) with the torment of losing his wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett) and two children (whom he calls his "beauties") to another man, Horace (Todd Allen), the youth minister. After throwing a ball through Jessie and Horace's bedroom window at night, he receives word that his church's congregation has voted to remove him as its pastor.
Praying to Jesus, Sonny cries out to the Lord: "I don't know who's been fooling with me - You or the Devil!" At a ballpark where his son is playing, Sonny takes a swing with a bat at Horace, sending him "on the road to glory."
Sonny takes off, driving his car into the drink before striking out on foot, meeting a kindly, one-legged black man, who nervously allows the stranger to spend a few nights in a pup tent; in the river Sonny baptizes himself the Apostle of the Lord. Gaining his host's trust, Sonny obligingly accepts a recommendation to visit a pastor in Louisiana.
On a Trailways bus, Sonny, referring to himself as the Apostle E.F., arrives in Bayou Boutte, looking for Rev C. Charles Blackwell (John Beasley). Hearing E.F. say he'd responded to this calling through a dream, the black preacher asks, after telling the Apostle he'd retired from the ministry following two heart attacks: "Why should I trust you?"
Nevertheless, E.F. proves his worthiness, remaking himself out of his sinful past, working as an auto mechanic and at a concession stand to pay for renovating Blackwell's abandoned church into the Jesus temple, "One Way Road to Heaven," rapidly drawing in a black and white congregation.
While performing on KBBR radio (the station owner Elmo also owns the auto-repair shop), E.F. gets acquainted with Toosie (Miranda Richardson) the receptionist, who is separated from her husband and two children, and begins courting her. He becomes a mentor to Sam (Walton Goggins), a young mechanic, and provides boxes of food to the needy. Calling Joe to stay in touch (but not revealing his whereabouts), Sonny hears of Horace being in a coma and his mother in the hospital.
During a Sunday picnic, a disgruntled man (Billy Bob Thornton), brimming with anger and racial animosity, pulls up in a bulldozer, threatening to raze the church, resulting in a dramatic confrontation. "I love this church," proclaims E.F., "more than I do myself."
In addition to starring in this affecting documentary-style film, executive producer Robert Duvall directed it and wrote the screenplay, deserving of belonging in the same house of worship as Elmer Gantry and Marjo.
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