Reviewer's Rating 1 out of 5   User Rating 3 out of 5
The Sin Eater (2003)
15Contains strong language and moderate horror

From the scarily overrated The Exorcist to laugh-starved comedy We're No Angels, pictures involving priests often deserve damnation.

Writer/director Brian Helgeland's impressively ill-considered The Sin Eater (aka The Order in the States) can proudly take its place in this canon of cinematic cretinism. That it started shooting with such a dishevelled, stupid script is in itself something of a miracle.

Father Alex (Heath Ledger) is a designer-stubbled Catholic cleric who flies to Rome when Cardinal Driscoll (Peter Weller) reveals that his childhood mentor has died in mysterious circumstances.

Aided by fellow God-botherer Thomas (Mark Addy) and wan waif Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), Alex soon discovers a 'Sin Eater' (Benno Fürmann) is at work - an evil eternal being with "the power to grant redemption to the unrepentant", ensuring that the undeserving can enter heaven.

Ignoring the key Christian tenets that no one deserves to enter heaven anyway and that requesting forgiveness is all that's needed to receive it, Helgeland attempts to wrestle with Big Ideas - and ends up in a half nelson.

On the rare occasions that the characters' gobbledygook is comprehensible ("Knowledge is the enemy of faith!"), it ignores the belief system it pertains to exist in. And even allowing for its theological thinness, as a thriller it's pitiable.

The 'scary' scenes can't elicit as much interest as the dialogue does laughter ("[They were] Demon spawn in the guise of children. Nothing I couldn't handle"), while Fürmann is demonically bland.

There are hints that the central idea could make for an interesting exploration of the Church's institutional abuse of power - and Ledger remains implausibly charismatic - but the biggest fear The Sin Eater brings is the thought that you may have to watch it again. Save us.

End Credits

Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Brian Helgeland

Stars: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Benno Fürmann, Peter Weller

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Length: 102 minutes

Cinema: 12 September 2003

Country: USA

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