Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Benno Furmann, Mark Addy, Peter Weller
Director: Brian Helgeland
A Sin Eater is a person who consumes the sins of the dying if the ailing wretch has been excommunicated and will thus be denied the last rites. The Sin Eater has the power to absolve them of their sins thus releasing them from a purgatorial afterlife. With this in mind one cannot help thinking that if writer/producer/director Brian Helgeland were to undergo a similar ceremony on his deathbed then chief amongst the moral transgressions he would cough up would be this film. Truth be told THE SIN EATER is not the unmitigated stinker advance word suggests but it is a slipshod effort: a lazy and unoriginal treatment that flatters to deceive as a pseudo-intellectual meditation on faith and spirituality.
Heath Ledger stars as troubled priest and exorcist Alex who teams up with fellow dog-collared ghostbuster Thomas (Mark Addy) to unravel the mysterious death of their former mentor in Rome. Joining the pair in the Eternal City is Alex’s would-be lover / could-be nutjob Mara (Shannyn Sossamon). Together the unlikely trio are forced to battle cliches, leap plot holes, endure derivative set pieces, breathe life into extant dialogue, and put any semblance of rationality to the sword.
Ironically (given the subject matter) THE SIN EATER is a prime example of a film made by people who lack faith in the product. Far too many ideas are culled from much better examples of the genre (THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, CARRIE, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE) which means that the film does not have time or space to develop an identity of its own. Helgeland is so concerned with punctuating his screenplay with these purloined showpiece scenes that any sense of consistency and structured storytelling is horribly underdeveloped.