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The Order (2003)



On first glance at the video store, the most compelling reason to buy The Order is that it is essentially a reunion film for the cast and crew of A Knight's Tale. It has the same writer-director (Brian Helgeland), the same three leads (Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy), and a lot of the same technical crew. Of course, anybody who's actually seen A Knight's Tale knows that it's hardly a good recommendation for buying a horror film (I could argue it's hardly a good recommendation for buying anything, but I really won't).

Helgeland has turned in some really great screenplays in his time - L.A. Confidential, Blood Work (which, okay, yes, had a very obvious villain), and Mystic River. His efforts in the horror genre, however, have left much to be desired - Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (known better for its visuals than its dialogue), 976-Evil, and Highway to Hell. With The Order, it seems like he's trying to combat his drive for cheesier horror by making it a religious thriller with horror elements...

Unfortunately, he also makes an incredibly boring film, with characters who are all deeply depressed by their pasts and not incredibly bright about their futures. It's a film firmly entrenched in the land of angst, and unfortunately, none of the cast seems to be very well suited to that particular landscape.

Ledger, in particular, seems trapped by the very air surrounding him. While in many actor's cases, this could be a brilliant stroke, the interpretation of the century - I'm not willing to give Ledger the benefit of the doubt here, especially since he looks like he's about ready to fall asleep half the time. I do, however, give kudos to Addy and Peter Weller (playing "the man who may be the next Pope"), as both seem to be having at least a little fun.

Ah, but what's it about? It's about a Catholic priest (member of the super-sekrit Carolignian Order) who sets out to get the facts behind the death of his mentor. It involves an ancient superstition given flesh called a Sin Eater and temptation and all that.

Yes, it's one of those films where you come into the last act of a massive conspiracy, so deeply entrenched that there's only one possible result to the film, except you don't know that until the film's ended and, supposedly, you smack your head and say, "But of course!" Except, here, you smack your head and say, "I should feed the cat!"

Or something.

The real shame of this is that the film is sumptuously shot (entirely on location in Rome). Beautiful widescreen framing of some of the more magnificent (and strangely crumbling) sites in the city. It's a visual pleasure, and one I wouldn't recommend missing if the rest of the film wasn't so yawnsome...

Ah, well. If you can bear a very tiring story to get to the crunchy center of eye-candy goodness, give The Order a shot... At least the DVD is chock-full of lots of different goodies (like a director's commentary and deleted scenes).