Sony // 2004 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // March 21st, 2006
The truth will test his faith to the limit.
(Insert your own joke about this movie testing my patience to the limit here.)
Tell me if this sounds familiar: When a fellow priest who has been accused of murdering a young street hustler is himself murdered while awaiting trial, Father Daniel Clemens (Christian Slater, Pursued) teams up with reporter (and ex-flame) Madeline Finney (Molly Parker, Waking the Dead) to clear the man's name and bring the real killer to justice.
You think Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Christian Slater all have the same agent? There does seem to be a pattern here: they were all once bankable (or at least semi-bankable) names, but now they've all been relegated to making direct-to-video fare, much of it released by Sony (I cannot wait to see Slater in Hollow Man 2!). Maybe they do share an agent, or maybe it's just a coincidence, I'm not sure. Maybe I have a point here, or maybe I'm just trying to do anything I can in order to avoid having to write yet another review about yet another lifeless, boring, pointless thriller, I'm not sure. Well, I am actually sure about the latter, but...aw, hell, let's just get this over with.
Nothing about The Confessor is remotely thrilling or entertaining. The direction is flat, the script is paint-by-numbers, and the actors don't really do much to elevate the material. It plays like a made-for-television movie -- an incredibly ordinary made-for-television movie. (You substitute Jennifer Love Hewitt for Molly Parker and Rob Estes for Christian Slater and this thing wouldn't be out of place on Lifetime.) And despite the staggering amount of red herrings in Brad Mirman's script, there is absolutely no mystery. You mean the real killer is the guy who keeps warning the hero to give up the investigation? How novel. The plot contains holes so big you could sail a schooner through them. Given the manner in which the young hustler is killed, there is no reason to believe the police would arrest the accused priest and charge him with the crime in less time than it will take you to read this review. Not one shred of physical evidence collected at the crime scene would have pointed toward the priest as being the murderer. (The script tries to play fast and loose with this by not mentioning the manner in which the victim was killed until the real killer confesses during the climax.) Now get this -- the murdered kid spent his nights in a shelter run by a harridan who constantly spied on her charges and locked the place down at night, refusing to let anyone in after ten (in one scene two teenagers break into Slater's rectory after the woman refuses to let them back into the shelter). This raises two questions. First, how did this woman not know about the young hustler's relationship with his killer? She knows everything else, so how could she have missed the fact that this kid was bringing an adult male back to his room on a regular basis? Second, if this woman locked down the shelter like Fort Knox, how is it that characters keep finding the shelter's back door unlocked exactly when they need it to be? Speaking of the woman spying on the kids, one of her tactics is leaving a cassette recorder in the church confessional (Slater and Parker discover the recorder one night when the woman comes to change the cassette). I'm confused about a couple of things. Exactly when does the woman turn the recorder on and off? How often does she change the tape? How many confessions can you capture on a 60 or 90 minute tape? How has she kept it hidden for so long? And if nobody's voice sounds the same on tape, how do you know who's who? But the most ridiculous thing we're asked to accept (other than Christian Slater as an intelligent, well-respected member of the cloth, of course) is the idea that the real killer could somehow gain entrance to the jail cell where the accused priest is being held, murder him, cover up the murder by making it look like a suicide, and then walk out the front door with no questions asked. Yeah, okay. This shows an egregious amount of contempt for the audience, even coming from the guy who wrote the Madonna turkey (I know that's a redundancy) Body of Evidence.
The transfer is on-par for these straight-to-DVD Sony releases. The movie was shop on-the-cheap in Canada and looks it (they didn't even bother to change the license plates on the cars). Darker scenes exhibit a fair amount of grain, and there is a rather flat look to much of the movie, although at times it can look surprisingly good (the colors in the priests' vestments are alternately deep, bold, and bright, and flesh tones are generally solid). The audio fares better, especially the music. The score is nicely mixed throughout the soundstage, and the hymns used during the opening and closing scenes feature some of the best mixing I've ever heard. There is no surround or low-end action other than what you'll find in the music, but there is a nice spread across the three front channels, and dialogue is always intelligible. The only extras are trailers for other Sony releases, and it looks like Stealth has replaced Frankenfish as Sony's most ubiquitous preview.
Come back, Mr. Hitchcock. We need you more than ever.
Guilty of being the same old thing you've seen a thousand times before.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13