The Sin Eater

Starring: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy and Shannon Sossamon
20th Century Fox
RRP: £15.99

Certificate: 15
Available now

When his mentor Father Dominic dies suddenly, Alex travels to Rome to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death. He discovers that the man killed himself after being given absolution by a sin eater, thought not to have existed for 200 years. The guilt is transferred to the sin eater, leaving the dying person's soul clean but damning his own. Alex and an old friend find ancient instructions on how to kill a sin eater, but they are incomplete. Enter the cardinal, prime candidate for the next pope, who gives them an ornamental knife from the vaults of the Vatican. William Eden, the sin eater, seeks out Alex at St Peters in Rome; however, the young priest cannot find it in himself to kill the man. Eden explains to Alex that there is nothing inherently evil about a sin eater. He shows the young priest how the process works, but describes himself as an embarrassment to the church. Eden tricks Alex into using the sin eater process to save a loved one. Alex finally uses the knife on Alex, but the sin eater's death produces unexpected results...

Since the emergence of quality films such as The Exorcist and The Omen, which used religious characters to tackle the essence of good and evil, we have had a steady trickle of titles with similar themes. The Sin Eater is a movie which you can comfortably watch and forget all about afterward. In other words, it leaves very little lasting impression. Although enjoyable in its own way, there doesn't seem to be a revelation-inspired progression of events. Instead the plot just seems to trundle along at the same pace with hardly an altered facial expression or show of emotion.

In fact, through their eyes you could read the thoughts of the dying characters, which all seemed to say, "Let's get this over with, so I can grab my pay cheque and go home for tea." You just wanted to grab half the actors and shake them into action.

One scene which stands out is when Alex and his old friend enter guarded caverns within the city, to question a man on the gallows at the instruction of a hooded leader of a coven. They barely escape with their lives from killer brethren, near-drowning and (the old favourite) temptation of faith.

With extras of only deleted scenes and a commentary by director Brian Helgeland, who doesn't even sound enthusiastic about his own film, this is a disappointing release. My final thought was, this could have been so much better.

Ty Power

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