The Order
review by Gregory Avery, 12 September 2003

You could practically hear people in the audience scratching their heads as the end credits for The Order came up: Huh? wot was THAT all about? And you absolutely couldn't blame them. Brian Helgeland's new movie, which he wrote and directed, bolts from the gate at the get-go and happily gallops off into the land of confusion, never to return.

Heath Ledger, wearing fashionably unshaven patches of beard about his face, and muttering most of his dialogue in a way which puts Harold Pinter's "posh mumblers" to shame, plays Father Alex, a Catholic priest belonging to an obscure order, the "Carolinians," who are both scholars and charged with dealing with "ghosts, demons, and all manner of the undead." He also still says Mass in Latin, because, he says, it was the way he was taught (despite the fact that Vatican II did away with all that in the 1960s). He and another "Carolinian," Thomas (Mark Addy), hie themselves to Rome when a third member of their order turns up dead, and their thrilling adventures include running into Peter Weller, playing a cardinal who smokes cigarettes he takes out of a black cigarette case trimmed with red; two children, a boy and a girl, whom Alex describes as, "Orphans. Of what, I don't know."; some sort of subterranean anti-Vatican which looks like the Kit Kat Klub in Sam Mendes' production of Cabaret (you half-expect Alan Cumming to come whirling in at any minute), and where the door-person is a bald man wearing a silver lame evening gown; and a gentleman named William Eden (Benno Fürmann), whom Alex spends a lot of time palling around with despite the fact that, if his brother is supposed to have helped Michelangelo construct the Vatican, he would have to be around 500 years old.

Mr. Eden is a professional "sin eater," able to alleviate people of their sins before dying if for some reason they are not able to make a final confession. He and Father Alex engage in a conversation in conundrums about beauty and truth, and fly around on Eden's private jet, but Alex never seems to notice that this all looks an awful lot like the Temptation in the Desert from the Gospels (so much for being a scholar). There's also Mara, played by Shannyn Sossamon with short black hair and the look of an undernourished fashion model -- she tags along with Alex despite the fact that she once tried to kill him. (Police Officer (to Alex, referring to his notes): "She tried to shoot you at an 'exercise class'?" Alex: "No, at an 'ex-or-cism'.") She introduces herself by saying, "The nightingales are gone.," then states to Alex that "it's you and me until the wheels fall off." After they, inevitably, make love (so much for being a priest), he gives her a bouquet of sunflowers, a bloom Mara describes as being God's "brilliant mistake." All you can do is stare at this movie in disbelief. One would say that the characters, in order to get themselves into some of the fixes they get into in this movie, must be dumber than dirt, except that you'd have to be able to tell just what it is they are doing in the first place. This is a film where people say, in all seriousness, "I am the conductor of the night train." Peter Weller, with his close-close cropped hair, looks somewhat like a bowling pin. And, at one point, a knife fight breaks out in the middle of a cavernous, ornate basilica.

The reason given for the movie being held-up from its original January release date was because the visual effects for the "sin-eating" episodes looked like "calamari." They no longer look like calamari, but the rest of the film is in need of repairs.

Directed by:
Brian Helgeland

Heath Ledger
Shannyn Sossamon
Mark Addy
Benno Fürmann 
Peter Weller

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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