Picture this: it's Saturday morning and you're sat at the kitchen table, leafing through the local rag. You see an ad for The Sin Eater. "Ah ha!" you cry, putting down your cornflakes. "I like the look of this baby. Written and directed by the guy who did A Knight's Tale, starring that nice Heath Ledger again, not to mention chirpy, chubby Mark Addy and pretty lady Shannyn Sossamon. I'll be booking tickets for that!" All right, so the grim title might alert you to the fact that this isn't another raucous romp. But you could be forgiven for expecting something at least vaguely similar, right?
Er, wrong. You see, this is the film where director Brian Helgeland and his cast prove their versatility. Oh, yes. Not only can they make good films, they can produce pretty damn awful ones as well.
A dumb-ass blend of The Exorcist, Highlander and Ghostbusters, wrapped up in cut-and-paste dialogue (a chunk of Nietzsche here, a splash of Alastair Crowley there), The Sin Eater is an unholy mess from start to blessed finish. Ledger and Addy are `maverick priests' who use the power of the Lord to rid the modern world of evil, one exorcism at a time. Then they stumble upon a Sin Eater, a man able to grant dying sinners absolution (and thus entry to Heaven) without the permission of the Catholic Church. Is he good or evil? Should the Church stop him? Can they stop him?
The answers are to be found somewhere in Helgeland's overwrought blah, but who really cares? After 30 minutes of the normally likeable Ledger gurning his way through the role of troubled priest and Helgeland manically spinning the camera whenever he wants to remind people that, yes, he has seen a lot of Dario Argento films, the only deep questions you'll be pondering are, "How soon can I leave?" and "Will they give me a refund at the box office?"
Called The Order in the US, The Sin Eater needs more than a name change to atone for its sins against cinema. An inept and dreary movie. Amen.