If you could sit through a triple feature of "Stigmata", "End of Days" and "Bless the Child" and STILL crave more hopelessly watered-down religious mumbo-jumbo...well congratulations. Here's a new one.Some movies boggle the mind from one simple question: How did this movie get made? Or alternately: How did a potentially interesting screenplay somehow turn into this? I found myself wondering this as The Order unspooled. Not because it's that amazingly awful (though it comes close), but because I simply cannot fathom that a board room full of movie executives could watch this film and say aloud: "Yes, people will like this. They'll understand its rampant nonsense and will emerge from the theater prepared to recommend it to other people." I just cannot believe that professional filmmakers could be so obtuse. Yet movies like The Order keep showing up month after month.
The plot here is...heck, you got me. I know for sure that it has something to do with a "Sin Eater" - which I believe is a semi-immortal being that can absolve the dying of their sins before they hit the pearly gates. For the sake of this movie, we'll call the "Sin Eater" the villain. Our hero is a shadowy priest who belongs to the "Carolingian" sect. Apparently the Carolingians are the Vatican's answer to Mulder & Scully, because pretty-boy leading man Heath Ledger gathers up two sidekicks (a chubby priest and a sexy, suicidal, formerly insane galpal) and hightails it to Rome to see what's up with all the Sin Eating that's going on.
It would be a chore akin to sitting through the entire film again for me to sit here and rattle off what's wrong with The Order - but the most alarming factor is that it comes from writer/director Brian Helgeland. How the screenwriter of L.A. Confidential could put so much effort into such a clearly derivative and entirely tiresome product simply amazes me. An Academy Award affords a screenwriter the chance to direct a few movies of his own; Helgeland used his well-earned cachet to deliver us The Order and A Knight's Tale. How does that make sense?
Another oddity is Helgeland's casting strategy for his three leads. Put simply - he uses the same three actors from his previous film! Now, I'll be the first to admit that Mark Addy made a solid Fred Flintstone, but if Helgeland expects us to buy the portly chap as an ass kicking priest/ghostcatcher...he's quite simply asking too much. Shannyn Sossamon, so charming in both A Knight's Tale and 20 Days and 40 Nights, is given very little to do besides utilize her 'tortured soul with dark eye makeup' schtick...and my guess is she should stick to the lighter material.
And then there's Ledger. Heath of the low-key mumble and the perpetually alternating accents. Cover-boy material presented as the planet's youngest world-weary priest who's seen it all. Not only is Ledger entirely wrong for the part; he's quite simply not a very good actor. And that's me being nice. When the lead actor of a mega-gloomy religious thriller earns peals of audience laughter at his oh-so-gravid line deliveries - you're looking at a performer way out of his league.
Repeatedly re-edited, retitled and rescheduled for theatrical release, The Order is easily as forgettable as its vapid press materials would lead you to believe. Not much more than a expensive-looking made-for-network religious potboiler, this one's bound to disappoint even the most patient movie fans out there. The ABC's of the plot are nearly mystifying, and once you have everything figured out you'll realize that the end result was hardly worth all the effort.It offers nothing new and does it in dull and dreary fashion. Save for the oily presence of the rarely-seen-in-a-multiplex-these-days Peter "Robocop" Weller, "The Order" offers nothing you'll remember twenty minutes after the movie ends. You've seen it all before. Many, many times.