The Cristero War, a three-year battle over religious freedom in post-revolutionary 1920s Mexico, is a little-known chapter in history. For Greater Glory may remedy that fact, but Dean Wright’s film has little interest in creating a factual record of the war itself. Its sympathies are cartoonishly simple: As the anti-clerical laws of President Plutarco Elias Calles become more onerous on the Catholic community, snarling soldiers are shown callously lynching priests in their churches, firing bullets into icons of the Virgin Mary and reveling next to a crucifix-fueled campfire. The heroic Cristeros’ worst atrocity, the burning of a trainload of civilians, is depicted as an honest mistake.
Wright, a longtime visual-effects producer, aims for the epic with a hefty cast of characters, multiple storylines and guns-blazing battles. The end result is more cluttered than grand, however, with types in search of characters and enough slow-motion horseback bullet hits to make Sam Peckinpah roll his eyes. Andy Garcia is the reluctant hero, an atheist general whose conversion to the faith is brought about less by events than by the inevitability of plot; he fights alongside a ragtag band of archetypes, the most egregious being a devoted young boy put through Passion of the Christ-level tortures in the film’s lust for martyrdom.