Directed by Brian Helgeland
Produced by Craig Baumgarten & Brian Helgeland
Written by Brian Helgeland
Director of Photograpy Nicola Pecorini
Music by David Torn
Cast: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Benno Furmann & Peter Weller
2003/102 mins/Color/5.1 DD
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
It happens every year, sometimes more than once a year. The production of a film is announced, and there is possibly reports from the film's set. This is followed by a report that photography was completed, and then...nothing. Rumors are leaked that the film has been "shelved". Then, the studio finally releases the movie, in an attempt to recoup their investment. Most of the time, these films are wretched, and one has to wonder what went wrong and why weren't these problems corrected? THE ORDER is one of this year's examples of this trend, and this one is as bas as they good.
This is typically the portion of the review where I write a plot synopsis for the film I'm reviewing. I'll do my best to do this for THE ORDER, but I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure what this movie was about. Heath Ledger stars as Father Alex Bernier, a priest who lives in New York. Bernier is a Carolignian, an order of priests who have been trained "to dispatch ghosts, demons, and all manner of undead." Bernier is approached by Father Driscoll (Peter Weller) with the news that Bernier's mentor, Dominic (Francesco Carnelutti), has died under mysterious circumstances. So, Bernier goes to Rome to investigate, taking Mara (Shannyn Sossamon), an escaped mental patient with him. Once in Rome, Bernier is joined by fellow Carolignian, Father Garrett (Mark Addy), where they learn that a Sin Eater is on the loose in Rome. A Sin Eater is an individual who can absorb the sins of a dying person so that their soul can enter heaven. Clearly, the church frowns on this practice, as it circumvents their authority. Bernier and Garrett must confront the Sin Eater and unravel the mystery.
THE ORDER is the most pointless film that I've ever seen. I don't mean pointless as in unnecessary, such as the remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I mean pointless in the sense that the movie never gets to the point. The film feels incredibly cobbled together and many viewers may get lost. The film's opening is fairly straightforward, but once Bernier reaches Rome, THE ORDER reels out-of-control and never gets back on the path. Part of the film is a supernatural thriller, with appearances by demons and ghosts. Another part of the film is a character study, as Bernier confronts his feelings towards Mara and his views on priesthood. And yet another part of THE ORDER concerns a conspiracy within the Catholic Church. None of these plots are fully explored or explained. The supernatural elements come and go, with no explanation or resolution. Mara and Bernier have a past, which is never fully revealed, and, I hate to nitpick, but I still want to know how Bernier got an escaped mental patient out of the country. The conspiracy angle shows up in the last few minutes of the film and does nothing for the story. Overriding all of this is the story of the Sin Eater, a character who is supposedly the villain, but never quite gels. And the job of the Carolignians, "to dispatch ghosts, demons, and all manner of undead" never really comes to fruition. The idea of "Ghostbusting" priests may sound hackneyed, but I'd see that movie.
THE ORDER was written, produced, and directed by Brian Helgeland, whose early work included screenplays for 976-EVIL and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4. More recently, he won an Oscar for adapting L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (an awesome movie, by the way) and directed A KNIGHT'S TALE. It seems that with THE ORDER, Helgeland is trying to combine his early horror roots with his more serious recent fare, and the results are a complete mess. Some may find the film offensive from a religious viewpoint, but I was offended by how dreadfully boring it was. Do yourself a favor and cancel this ORDER.
THE ORDER genuflects onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the full-screen and widescreen versions of the movie. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fantastic, as the picture is very sharp and clear. The film has a very dark look, but the picture is never too dark. The occasional bursts of color look great as well. There are minor moments of artifacting and edge enhancement, but they are not distracting. There is some minor grain during the opening shot, but otherwise, the transfer looks great. The disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which is impressive as well. The dialogue is sharp and clear, and the film's sound mix offers constant use of surround sound effects. The musical cues sound fine and there is great use of bass response.
The DVD has a few extra features. We start with an audio commentary from Brian Helgeland, who speaks throughout the film. He talks at length about the film's production and shooting on location in Europe. However, there are few comments about the film's history, and most of these are veiled. So, it's an OK commentary, but it never goes beneath the surface. There are 7 deleted scenes, most of which are very incidental, but there is one cool hallucination sequence which was dropped from the finished film. There is also a reel of dailies. The combination of this footage runs about 19 minutes, and can be viewed with or without commentary from Helgeland. Finally, we have the theatrical trailer for THE ORDER. If you must see this film, be sure to check out this trailer, as it advertises a totally different film, making THE ORDER look as if it's a mystery-thriller and the Bernier character is an experience detective. Wait a minute, that movie may have been good.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©