Based on the novel by Robert Whitlow, The List is a suspense story about a young lawyer named Renny and his involvement with a secretive investment brotherhood known as The Covenant List of South Carolina, Ltd. As he tries to escape the financial and spiritual domination of this mysterious group, he falls in love with a young woman named Jo, and learns some lessons about the power of prayer along the way.
When I reviewed the novel (also a two-star effort IMO), my primary peeves were the fact that the story's middle was bogged down by Renny & Jo's romance, and that Renny's "conversion" to Christianity was a very weak presentation of the Gospel. I was curious to see if these flaws would be addressed with a more tightly-written screenplay. The answer is both yes and no.
The book-to-screen translation did eliminate the saggy middle of the novel, but I think they actually cut too much, boiling Renny and Jo's love story down to one or two brief scenes. The story as told here seems rushed; the slow parts of the book are tightened up, but everything else got curtailed too, even the good parts. Frankly, if I hadn't read the book I'm not sure how much of the story I would have grasped. Perhaps budgetary restraints made them keep the film short, but the resulting screenplay only hits the highlights of the book.
Though I hardly thought it possible, Renny's "conversion" is even weaker here than in the book. He just sits in a church, crying and staring at a statue of Jesus. There's no Gospel at all! There are some good spiritual lessons about the power of faith and prayer, but the choppy storytelling weakens the effectiveness of the message.
The production values are excellent, and the performances are good as well, especially the actress who plays Mama A. The overall casting was excellent, too. I did wish that the motivations of the villainous Desmond had been made clearer; sometimes he seems to want to help Renny, but then he turns around and stabs him in the back. Also, unlike the book, the movie ends with his fate unresolved! The source of his supernatural abilities is never made clear either -- he just seems like a bad guy with some kind of unexplained spooky power.
Bottom line, despite a good cast and production values, the sketchy storytelling make The List a movie to scratch from YOUR list.