The Order

"Weak"

The Order Review


The Catholic church has been a source of inspiration for a whole slew of scary movies -- everything from goosepimpling tales of possession like "The Exorcist" to fact-based stories of institutionalized horror like the current art-house hit "The Magdalene Sisters."

But mostly these scary movies have not been all that frightening. In fact, mostly they've been forgettably cheap-fright thrillers that make up their own mythology, then dress it up in cassocks and clerical collars for mock-credibility, much like "The Order."

This dark supernatural thriller about a brooding young man of the cloth (lumpy-featured heartthrob Heath Ledger) in the midst of a major crisis of faith (there's this girl, see...) is loosely based on an archaic con offered to ex-communicated sinners on their deathbeds in Medieval times: Someone calling himself a "sin eater" would perform a ceremony in which, for a price, he would assume all the dying person's transgressions and guilt so he or she would be free to enter Heaven.

The plot involves Ledger seeking answers to his mentor's death by tracking of one of these sin eaters (Benno Furmann, "The Princess and the Warrior"), an apparent immortal who has resurfaced in present-day Rome and is trying to recruit the conflicted priest to be his successor. But the narrative is convoluted with requisite romantic temptations (once-possessed sultry pixie Shannyn Sossamon fell for the priest when he performed her exorcism), apparent murders accompanied by Aramaic graffiti, an ominous cardinal (an effectively unsettling Peter Weller) with the air of a CIA-styled Vatican spook, a Satanic cult with all the typical black-hood and underground-lair accoutrements, and demons, voices and spirits which come out of the candle-lit woodwork with such regularity that Ledger barely shrugs at having to dispatch them back to hell with histrionic brimstone ballyhoo.

Sneaked into theaters by 20th Century Fox without a press screening -- which means the studio thinks it's crap -- "The Order" has some paranormal promise and soul-searching perspicacity buried under its hazy layers of portentous atmosphere. But as written and directed by the imaginative Brian Helgeland (adapter of "L.A. Confidential" and the highly-praised "Mystic River," due out next month), there are deeper themes and emotions that just don't get their due from the film's lightweight leads.

Ledger, Sossamon and Mark Addy, playing another clergyman and Ledger's best friend, were perfect for Helgeland's outlandishly abstract, 13th century jousting-with-a-'70s-rock-soundtrack action-comedy "A Knight's Tale." But reuniting them here wasn't smart casting. None of the actors seem to connect with their characters. Ledger doesn't perceptively struggle with the collapse of his belief system or even question his attraction to Sossamon -- something which Addy encourages as if the priesthood is just his buddy's day job.

"The Order" only shows its conceptual depth in the scenes that find Ledger face-to-face with the complex, seductively haunted and menacing Furmann for a dogmatic tug-of-war over the entitlement and administration of last rites.

But despite almost two years of studio-mandated recutting and reshoots that have left the film feeling elusive and unfocused, Helgeland -- who was very excited about the project when I interviewed him just before filming began in 2001 -- holds his themes together fairly well until a last-act twist that relies on the hackneyed notion of a veiled villain unmasking himself for no explored reason and verbosely explaining his entire evil plan to the hero.

I'd be curious to know what went down between my interview in 2001 and the release of this second-rate chiller. But even if Helgeland had been given final cut, "The Order" has an underlying shallowness that would have been hard to disguise.



The Order

Facts and Figures

Run time: 102 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th September 2003

Box Office USA: $7.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $11.6M

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Baumgarten Merims Productions, N1 European Film Produktions GmbH & Co. KG

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 8%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 55

IMDB: 5.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Alex Bernier, as Mara Sinclair, as William Eden, as Thomas Garrett, as Driscoll, Francesco Carnelutti as Dominic, as Apathetic Bishop, Paola Emilia Villa as Sister Marie, Giulia Lombardi as Little Girl, Mirko Casaburo as Little Boy

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.