The Sin Eater

Rating 1

Written and directed by Brian Helgeland

Starring Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Benno Fürmann, Mark Addy and Peter Weller

Heath Ledger plays Alex Bernier, a “rogue” Catholic priest based in New York City and a member of an arcane order known as the Carolingians. He travels to Rome following the death of Father Dominic, his mentor and the head of his order. He is accompanied by Mara Sinclair, an enigmatic and troubled artist he had once performed an exorcism on. She has recently escaped from a secure psychiatric hospital where she had been confined following an attempt to kill him. Once there, they are joined by Bernier’s fellow Carolingian and demon hunter, Thomas Garrett, part jolly, part foul-mouthed Irishman, a kind of mixture of Friar Tuck and a James Joyce character.

As a result of their investigation into the death of Dominic, claimed to have been a suicide, Alex and Thomas uncover an unholy plot to install a “black” (as in evil) Pope in the Vatican. Alex becomes convinced of the existence of a so-called Sin Eater, a figure from religious folklore who ingests the sins of the damned to allow them to pass through the gates of heaven. Alex is, we are repeatedly told, a seeker of knowledge and well versed in the ancient ways, but when he acquires knowledge he does nothing with it and equally seems incapable of identifying evil when it stares him in the face.

This is quite possibly the worst film I have ever seen. The story, although it has the potential to have been intriguing, simply becomes increasingly preposterous as the film progresses. The dialogue is laughable in the extreme and the casting is suspect. Heath Ledger is never believable. Shannyn Sossamon (Mara) is verging on atrocious, although she is burdened with the very worst of the dialogue. English actor Mark Addy (Thomas) seems to think he is acting in another film altogether and hams his way through his role. Only the German actor Benno Fürmann makes the most of a bad job in the role of the sin eater.

Brian Helgeland, who wrote, directed and produced this mess, is best known as a screenwriter. His credits include ‘L.A. Confidential’ and ‘Mystic River’. He had previously worked with Ledger, Sossamon and Addy on the film ‘A Knight’s Tale’.

The American title of ‘The Sin Eater’ is ‘The Order’.

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