ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 11, 2003
Writer-director-producer Brian Helgeland attempted to turn the medieval action film on its ear with 2001’s A Knight’s Tale, which was best known for incorporating ’70s rock music into its 17th-century tale of an underdog jouster (Heath Ledger) out for love and glory. With The Order, Helgeland hooks up with Ledger again and this time tries to turn the occult thriller on its ear with the story of a demon-battling New York priest who travels to Rome and comes up against an immortal “sin eater”.
But the director only winds up flat on his ass with this silly, boring, and uncalled-for exercise in nonentertainment.
As if he couldn’t get enough of the cast from A Knight’s Tale, Helgeland also burdens that film’s Shannyn Sossamon and Mark Addy with major roles in The Order. The sultry Sossamon plays Mara, a suicidal Big Apple artist whose main purpose is to tempt Ledger’s conflicted priest, Alex, and spout brain-dead lines like, “We’re the Catholic Pete, Link, and Julie”. The portly Addy rounds out this not-so-mod squad of spiritual sleuths with his portrayal of Alex’s lighthearted buddy Thomas, the kind of guy who cracks lame-ass jokes right after sending hell spawn back into the abyss.
The strange-looking Benno Fürmann from The Princess and the Warrior makes the most of his otherworldly appearance in the role of William Eden, the sin eater who’s grown tired of consuming the sins of bad folk and granting them eternal peace. He wants young Alex to take over the job of placing salt and bread on the chests of the nearly dead, reciting an incantation, then wolfing down the morsels.
But the up-and-comer decides to forgo this unappealing career move, resolving instead to doff his priest’s collar and do the nasty with Mara. That decision doesn’t go over well with Eden, who’s especially sick of the part of the sin-eating ceremony where he is force-fed those translucent, computer-animated tendrils.
Most of The Order is shot in shadowy darkness, but that technique doesn’t instill any sense of foreboding; it just makes you strain to see what the hell’s going on. And what you can make out is pretty corny stuff. Robocop’s Peter Weller—another actor who doesn’t need a trip to the makeup chair to creep you out—plays the ambitiously evil Cardinal Driscoll, who hangs his enemies and urges people to ask them questions while they’re dangling.
Near the climax of the film, Alex recognizes the voice of his pal Thomas while the latter’s being hanged, so he uses his gun to shoot him down, drags him outside, and heads off to St. Peter’s Basilica to stick a sacred stiletto through Eden’s sin-filled heart.
Way before then you’ll be wishing you’d gotten your satanic-flick fix by staying home and renting The Omen.