Judge Mike Rubino gets annoyed when assassins take too long in the confessional.
Our reviews of The Confession (1999) (published November 12th, 1999) and The Confession (1970) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection (published June 19th, 2015) are also available.
What's your darkest secret?
Originally released as Hulu-exclusive webisodes, The Confession is a polished piece of new media filmmaking. Finally, someone decided to step up and challenge that "History of Dance" video.
Facts of the Case
The Confession begins with Kiefer Sutherland (24) entering a Catholic church in New York City. He's there to confess to countless murders, including one he has yet to commit. The priest in the confessional (played by John Hurt, Alien) tries to talk him out of it, and the two debate morality, judgement, and forgiveness.
Kiefer Sutherland's first real project after handing over his CTU-issued cell phone and frayed lamp wire is a nifty experiment in online distribution and compact storytelling. Released through Hulu in five-minute chunks, The Confession is a tense acting exercise and a breezy morality play.
The trope of the Catholic church confessional dates back decades, and is an oft-used tool for both character development and plot exposition—just like a character making the sign of the cross is supposed to inform the audience of that person's possession of "spirituality." Cops, crooks, superheroes, or pretty much any character that has to bear the weighty burden of judgment (on either side) ends up going behind the confessional screen. Here, Sutherland, who plays a nameless hitman, confronts Hurt, a nameless priest, in a battle of wits.
If only the wits were…wittier. As an Internet serial, it's just deep enough to feel smart or thought-provoking without making anyone uncomfortable. In its current form—cut together, with added footage, into a 90-minute movie—the moral arguments can be a little shallow. The hitman occasionally sounds like a contrarian high school student challenging a priest at Sunday school, and their arguments fail to build in any meaningful way. Thanks to a marginally surprising twist, the moral dilemma is tossed aside in the third act and the resolution presents itself with blunt efficiency.
Script aside, The Confession impresses on almost every level. Sutherland and Hurt play off of each other wonderfully. Neither character is particularly well-defined, but it isn't all that necessary. Sutherland might as well be playing Jack Bauer; as soon as the film flashes back to him torturing Michael Badalucco (The Practice) or wielding a silenced pistol, I start to look for the ticking clock. John Hurt is arguably a little bit better, by virtue of the changes his character goes through because of Sutherland's debate. It's not Frost/Nixon or anything, but it's entertaining. Supporting these two gentlemen is a small cast of capable actors, all of whom appear in the hitman's flashbacks of violence. Combine all of this with a beautiful set, solid cinematography, and an intense score by 24 composer Sean Callery, and you have a web series that is more professional than some feature films.
The DVD not only looks and sounds great in standard definition, but comes with a slew of supplements including the extra episodes, 10 behind-the-scenes videos, and four featurettes. Sutherland was the driving force behind this project, and it's fun to hear him sit down and talk about the challenge of online filmmaking.
If you ever wanted to see Jack Bauer argue with a priest, The Confession is the web series for you. It may not be the deepest theological argument, but for a segmented online thriller it's an entertaining piece of pulp.
I absolve you of your guilt.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
• Bonus Episodes
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