The unholy bond between religion and politics is the backgroundbackdrop for "Persecuted," a confused and confusing thriller about a TV preacher ruined by a sinister government plot.

James Remar, who broke out in films 35 years ago with "The Warriors" and later as the villain of "48 Hours," is cast against type as John Luther, a former drug addict who now leads a crusade that he aims to keep above politics, above religious denominations.

Sinister Sen. Donald Harrison (Bruce Davison) is pressuring Luther to endorse The Faith and Fairness Act. It's incredibly vague what this will do, but it seems to be some sort of religious tolerance/equality act that will give all religions equal standing. Luther isn't having it. But he's been warned.

A drive home takes a turn toward the honey trap they've set for him. A girl dies. Luther is on the lam, hunted by the law, as his ministry tumbles into the hands of his opportunistic second-in-command (Christian comic Brad Stine, pretty good).

Luther turns to his wise old dad (Fred Dalton Thompson), who happens to be a Catholic priest, another bit of backstory that is unexplained.

The safe way to approach this is as the thriller it is supposed to be, and as such, "Persecuted" is pretty limp. There's no urgency to the performances, no ticking clock to Luther's desperate bid to clear his name. Moreover, Remar, a fine character actor, is utterly miscast as a preacher.

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PLOT A preacher is the victim of a government plot.

RATING PG-13 (mild language, some violence)

CAST James Remar, Bruce Davison, Fred Dalton Thompson


BOTTOM LINE Not very thrilling