Masterful screenwriter Brian Helgeland has penned two of the best novel to screenplay adaptations in the last two decades with L.A. Confidential and Mystic River as well as some other highly entertaining remakes and commercial scripts such as The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, A Knight's Tale, and Payback.
Having worked multiple times with Clint Eastwood as well as Tony and Ridley Scott, Oscar winning Helgeland whose directing mentor was Richard Donner, has managed to build an impressive career of box office success alternating with intellectual thrillers from Man on Fire to Green Zone. Unfortunately, one of his greatest misfires was trying to turn a supernatural premise into an odd mix of religion and action in The Order.
On the surface, it seemed like a surefire bet to reunite with his feisty and photogenic A Knight's Tale leads Heath Ledger and Shannyn Sossaman. Yet without the joy, ingenuity and excitement of that previous work, Helgeland's dreadful Order gives them absolutely nothing to do, except maybe guard you on your television screen while you fall asleep within the first act.
Obviously, some excitement would've surely kept our attention, ultimately the film is at least thirty years too late for the wave of supernatural God gothic pictures like Rosemary's Baby, The Omen and The Exorcist and not quite timed close enough to The Da Vinci Code or The Passion of the Christ from Helgeland's frequent collaborator Mel Gibson to garner enough parishioner purchases to pack the house.
With an obviously ill-at-ease, unmotivated and miscast Ledger as a priest experiencing a crisis of faith who takes the mentally unstable woman to whom he's attracted (Sossamon) to Rome with him to investigate the unnatural death of his excommunicated mentor, we're immediately as confused as the cast is regarding the characters' motives and the overall tone of the not-quite-horror, not-quite-action work.
Further challenged by illogical behavior and poor decisions from the get-go as we discover that Ledger met Sossamon when she tried to kill him during an exorcism (yeah, not exactly The Thorn Birds) and the fact that we can spot at least two suspicious potential villains a mile away, the melancholic work grows even more frustratingly nonsensical as it continues.
At times, characters have what we assume are key conversations offscreen and even more often, we're left scratching our head at our main protagonist's constantly shifting priorities. Overall, The Order feels like a first draft of a script Helgeland dashed off in between working on far more brilliant commissioned studio projects.
Given the creative freedom to take a major cinematic leap after his Knight's Tale proved to be a surprise summer success that launched Ledger to super-stardom, unfortunately for his comeback film and reunion with the cast, Helgeland's upswing stalled, sadly on the merit of his own words set down on paper.
While luckily he's so talented that he rebounded repeatedly over the years, the arrival of this unpleasant picture –most likely given fanboy's interest in the late Ledger and the upcoming Halloween holiday – doesn't save The Order from disappointing disorder when giving it a second look on Blu-ray.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review