The Order Movie Review

The Brian Helgeland repertory company of Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, and Mark Addy returns in The Order, following their 2001 feature A Knight's Tale. Helgeland has reassembled his crew for the crappy supernatural thriller some talented directors seem to need to get out of their system. Roman Polanski had to do The Ninth Gate before he could grab as Oscar for The Pianist; earlier this year, Lawrence Kasdan exorcised Dreamcatcher. Helgeland has written some good films (L.A. Confidential, Blood Work) and directed one of the better Mel Gibson vehicles (Payback). Making one bad horror movie isn't so bad; in fact, good career horror directors can find themselves mired in shlock for years. Doubtless Helgeland will move on to better projects.

Perhaps he should seek to expand his cast of players before that time comes. As nice as it is to see a writer-director and group of actors getting along so swimmingly, one reason The Order never quite makes it out of the gate is a stunningly inert ensemble. Heath Ledger is a member of a new class of young actors handsome enough to be mistaken for leading man, when, really, they would be better served by character parts (Josh Hartnett and Vin Diesel, feel free to jot this down). Ledger, despite his grizzle here, looks too young to play a rogue priest investigating the death of a member of his obscure order. His character is given a complicated, traumatic past, but he looks more tired and bored than haunted. Mark Addy contributes a dash of levity as another member of the order, but his character disappears for long stretches, only to materialize for the occasional dire injury.

Ledger and Addy have been better in other movies. Shannyn Sossamon, though, has only been in other movies (40 Days and 40 Nights, Rules of Attraction). She always plays the same thrift-shoppy, chilled-out pixie, and I believe her time is up. Her romance with Ledger is portrayed through some early flirting and late anguish, all unconvincing. A little credit: She does deliver the movie's one good line ("We're kind of a Catholic Pete, Julie, and Linc," she says of the holy trio).

If I haven't yet mentioned additional story details, it's because Helgeland's screenplay favors blatant, thudding exposition in dialogue instead of actual onscreen action. Much time is spent on characters discussing what we haven't seen in serious tones. So not much actually happens in The Order: Ledger travels to Rome, sort of investigates that death, and tracks down someone known as the Sin Eater (Benno Fürmann). The Sin Eater performs a supernatural ritual to absolve the sins of the dying. The film makes a pretty big deal about becoming a Sin Eater while simultaneously showing that it's pretty easy; as far as I could tell, you only need to perform the ritual once, and you're in. Given that one of the perks of becoming a Sin Eater is living for a very long time, it's odd that the menacing conspirators within the Vatican (oh, yeah: there's some kind of Vatican conspiracy -- someone wants to become a warrior pope!) don't have a whole army of Sin Eaters at their disposal. But this is a movie too dull to imagine one interesting Sin Eater, let alone an army's worth.

I must admit that "the Sin Eater" is a pretty cool-sounding concept, and if you'd like to hear the words another dozen or so times, by all means, go see The Order. If not, though, just wait for Helgeland to conjure something better.

Deleted scenes and a commentary from Helgeland comprise bonus features on the DVD.

Eat this, pal!


Comments

The Order Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 2003

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