Posted: 09/11/03

The Order (2003)
by Chris Wood

Where The Sin Eater falls short of being a great film is in the details

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It is a balmy day in Rome.  An elderly man rides his bicycle through the streets.  He gets to his destination, passes by two very cute shivering children and enters what appears to be his home.  Inside, a man confronts him.  The room lights up, there is a scream, and then there is nothing...

October is nearly upon us, and a good ghost and goblin-like movie is due.  Something eerie, spooky and supernatural never fails to draw moviegoers in for a good scare.  The Order, starring Heath Ledger (The Patriot) is an iffy attempt at such a movie. 

We are introduced to Ledger's character, Alex Beriner, while he's performing a mass in a church in New York City. He does the mass facing away from the people, and in Latin. During the receiving of mass, one of the men who approach Alex for the delicious waivers that always stick to the roof of one's mouth says that he needs to speak with him.  The man, Driscoll (Peter Weller, RoboCop), breaks the news that a man named Dominic has just committed suicide in Rome.  Dominic (Francesco Carnelutti, Slave Of Dreams) was, "like a father to me," Alex explains. 

And there is quite a history between the two.  Dominic took in Alex after his mother's death - his father was killed in an automobile accident some years earlier -- and taught him the ways of the Carolingians.  This order is kind of like living in the times of Star Wars and getting to be a Jedi Knight. They get to fight evil spirits and save the world, so to speak, and learn of the secrets of the afterlife. 

As fate would have it, the night Alex is planning to leave for Rome to do some Priest Detective work, an attractive young lady shows up at Alex's quarters.  Her name is Maria Sinclair (Shannyn Sossamon, The Rules of Attraction) and she confesses to Alex that she was just released from a mental institution.  Alex and Maria know each other because Alex preformed an exorcism on her, which lead her to the mental institution.  It is obvious that she likes him. 

So the two depart for Rome, meeting up with an old evil fighting priest friend and fellow Carolingian named Mark Addy (Thomas Garrett, The Time Machine 2002) along the way.  In meeting Mark, it becomes apparent that these Carolingians are not just a lot of hot air, but are the real deal in doing battle with the undead.  Mark chases one down in the streets of Dublin and Alex fends off a couple in Rome while burying his mentor, Dominic. 

Basically, all that aside, this movie is about a fellow know as The Sin Eater:  an immortal who goes to sinners before their demise and performs a ceremony where he consumes their sins so that they may pass through the pearly gates with a clean soul.  Alex discovers that Dominic, before his passing, had a visit from The Sin Eater and begins to follow clues that lead him to an unthinkable truth.  Alex and Mark think that they have to kill The Sin Eater, but as it unravels discover that Alex is a pawn in a larger plan. 

Where the movie falls short to produce a great story -- because the idea of the movie is good -- is background development in the characters.  Dominic is supposed to be like a father to Alex, but very little is given as to the depth of their relationship.  A flashback of Dominic giving Alex a lesson, or something like that would have helped.  Also, his mother and father died when he was young, but no memories of their lives were captured from Alex's point of view.  Was he angry with his mother for killing herself?  Suicide is supposed to be a mortal sin. And even the love interest, Maria, of whom he preformed an exorcism on to rid her of evil spirits, is not given enough time.  It makes viewers not care if the characters live, die, hate, kill, etc.  And it is too bad, because, as I said, the topic is interesting, and worth exploring. There is a twist in the plot, just enough to keep viewers in their seats throughout the movie, but just barley. 

Chris Wood tried lifting weights once, but found them to be heavy and arduously repetitive.

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