out of Five
Running time: 103
Ridiculous, frequently laughably bad religious thriller, made slightly odder by the fact that it reunites four of the people behind A Knight’s Tale.
It’s never a particularly good sign when a movie is retitled for its release in the UK and The Sin Eater (known as The Order in the States) is no exception. It also marks Heath Ledger’s third lacklustre performance in a row (after Four Feathers and the soon-to-be-released Ned Kelly), which means that the ‘Heath Ledger is the new Matt Damon’ mantra in Josie and the Pussycats was not quite as pop culturally astute as it might have first appeared.
Renegade Priest With fat Best Mate
Ledger stars as Father Alex, a ‘renegade’ priest (like a renegade cop, only holier) who investigates the mysterious death of his mentor in Rome and uncovers an ancient and sinister Order within the church before coming face to face with the legendary Sin Eater himself (Benno Furmann). He’s aided by his Fat Priest Best Mate Thomas (Mark Addy), and Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), a woman with whom he shares a complicated past (she tried to kill him during an exorcism or something).
The story itself is pretty dire but the script does throw up some genuinely hilarious lines – such as when Ledger is attacked in a graveyard by the Twins Of Evil: Addy, arriving late, asks “What evil passed through here?” and Ledger replies: “Oh, just Devil Spawn in the guise of children…”
Similarly, after a particularly tragic, crucial plot twist, Addy mumbles “Sorry I didn’t find out earlier…” He also has an annoying habit of referring to Alex as “Spaghetti-o” for no reason at all. Other classics include “Your time is running out - the Dark Pope is rising!” and “There must be another Other…”
Ledger himself is as constipated here as he was in his previous two films – like Mark Wahlberg, he has yet to convince as a leading man. Similarly, Shannyn Sossamon should probably stick to playing Californian hippy chicks, as she lacks the depth to play the tortured artist type required of her here. As for Addy (who sports a ridiculous accent), it’s hard to tell if he’s meant to be comic relief or not.
The kindest things you can say about The Sin Eater are that the sin-eating effects are quite good and that it would make a good double bill with Revelations – another, British-made Crap Religious Thriller that sank without trace last year. (Two Crap Religious Thrillers? Why, that’s practically a sub-genre).
It’s made all the odder by the fact that Ledger, Addy and Sossamon were all co-stars in A Knight’s Tale, also directed by The Sin Eater’s Brian Helgeland – so either he has some weird power over them or they all thought that getting back together to make this rubbish would be A Really Good Idea. They were wrong.
In short, fans of ‘good’ bad movies (see also Killing Me Softly) will find plenty to enjoy but as a thriller it’s a bit of a disaster. Approach with caution.