The Order

The stars and director of the campy jousting romp A Knight's Tale reunite for The Order, a supernatural religious thriller so awful it should result in the retroactive forfeiture of the Oscar writer, director, and producer Brian Helgeland won for co-writing L.A. Confidential. In a performance mercifully obscured by dim lighting, Heath Ledger stars as a hunky priest who belongs to an iconoclastic religious order for whom regular run-ins with demonic beings are an occupational hazard. After his mentor dies under mysterious circumstances, Ledger travels to Rome, where he reconnects with hard-drinking, wisecracking fellow priest Mark Addy and is instructed by shadowy cardinal Peter Weller to kill a sinister "sin eater" who absorbs and absolves the sins of others. Shannyn Sossamon co-stars as a quirky artist, mental-hospital escapee, and survivor of demonic possession who meets cute with Ledger during an exorcism in which she tries to kill him. Ledger is eventually wined and dined by the sin eater, who seems like an all-right guy, though the devil has been known to adopt pleasing forms. Rebel priests on a first-name basis with supreme forms of evil, Ledger and Addy play men for whom the fantastic is commonplace. In a sadly typical scene, the latter seems unfazed when a fellow he's pursuing mutters some gobbledygook about the "dark pope" rising, then morphs unconvincingly into a demon-corpse. In a livelier film, that scene would at least merit an unintentional laugh, but The Order is too solemn and misguided–not to mention dogged by direct-to-video production values, atrocious special effects, and cardboard characters–to work even as camp. Comic relief in only the most abstract sense, Addy encourages the perpetually scowling Ledger to smile once in a while, but it's Helgeland who needs to lighten up.

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