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Will 'Book of Eli' Draw Moviegoers from the Pews?

Will a movie about a man in post-apocalyptic 2043 carrying the last remaining copy of the Bible draw believers in the pews into the theaters?

What if that man also carries with him a knife and shotgun, which he uses to kick tail?

That's what America will find out by the end of this weekend with "The Book of Eli" hitting the big screen Friday.

The New York Post's Kyle Smith calls the movie an "overtly, unabashedly Christian one" as well as a "well-done action picture."

Denver Post Film Critic Lisa Kennedy, meanwhile, says the movie is "as likely to make Good Book-thumpers squirm in their pews as it is to rouse atheist point-guard Christopher Hitchens and team from the bench."

"That such a spiritual film enthralls in violence so much (the body count is in the dozens) is contradictory to its message of civilization saved by the Bible," adds Jake Coyle of The Associated Press.

Set some 30 years after war has turned the world into a wasteland, "The Book of Eli" follows Denzel Washington's character, Eli, as he makes his divinely-inspired, on-foot journey toward America's West Coast, carrying with him the last known copy of the Bible – a King James Version Bible.

Along the way, Eli comes across a town controlled by a villainous man who is among the few who lived before all but a few books in the world were burned (many blamed religion for the troubles that emerged after Earth was hit by a meteorite).

Believing that The Book will enable him to control the world, the Mussolini-loving leader (played by Gary Oldman) sends out his minions to fetch out the Bible, which Eli guards like a character out of "The Matrix."

Though Eli is supposedly a man of peace, he proves to be a formidable opponent, who can kick butt and somehow elude the bullets fired at him.

Divinely protected?

That's how the New York Post's Smith describes him.

And from what he's seen so far, Smith predicts the movie is "going to do heavenly business at the box office."

LA Times Blogger Patrick Goldstein, however, wonders if Smith is being "too optimistic."

"I'm not so sure that Middle American evangelicals will flock to see a film with so much bloody mayhem and such a grim view of the future," Goldstein writes.

"We'll be watching the film's box-office numbers this weekend – and its all-important CinemaScore rating – and see whether we've got a true Christian blockbuster or just another futuristic dud on our hands," he adds.

Directed by the Hughes brothers and written by English video game expert Gary Whitta, "The Book of Eli" stars Washington, Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Frances de la Tour, and Michael Gambon.

The film is being distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

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