Ok so Brian Helgeland’s “A Knight’s Tale” wasn’t exactly a great movie, but as a piece of popcorn entertainment it worked. There was fun, there was action and there was spectacle. “The Order” is no such film.
Tackling the religious thriller genre is a tall order and for every rare success like “The Name of the Rose”, there’s several bombs on hand from “Stigmata” to “End of Days”. “The Order” is a quieter more adult drama than those last two, and yet is also the worst – a new career low for both Helgeland and star Heath Ledger whose already sinking fast off the Hollywood radar.
The idea that there’s a Vatican conspiracy of rogue religious cultists who employ a ‘sin eating’ assassin is a stretch at best but could’ve worked, however what we have here is delivered in a tone that would put even an insomniac to sleep.
Some nicely lit shots can’t hide a script heavier than a Catholic adulterer’s guilt and a shockingly slow pace which weaken a drama built upon poor performances and no real story. I guess that explains its metamorphosis from dreary mystery to bad European drama and drop in hints of “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Ghostbusters” of all things to keep some pundits awake.
Ledger sleeps his way through the role, a permanent facial fuzz glued to his cheeks, and is neither convincingly tortured nor vaguely interesting. Shannyn Sossamon turns up flat as ever albeit in an almost ridiculous role of a love interest that’s clinically insane and yet keeps up with the latest fashions (Mommie Dearest indeed).
Mark Addy turns up briefly but can’t lift the film above the mundane, and then of course Benno Furmann appears as the Sin Eater. As soon as this guy first shows up, the entire movie changes from being bad direct-to-video schlock to something truly new in the realms of crimes against humanity. The last half of this film is the very daperdly-suited Fennman talking to an almost stoned Ledger about the torture of being an immortal and doing what he does for a living before asking the man to take his place.
This would be all fine and good in a short scene, the trouble is his monologue goes on for a record breaking 40 minutes or so and never breaks except when the sins appear (which look like ghosts of the “Matrix” squids). The ending continues to slide into ridicule. Honestly there hasn’t been a film of this type this bad, even “Lost Souls” and “Bless the Child” had more redeemable qualities about them.