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(this review is spoiler-free)

The Confessor (a.k.a. The Good Shepherd) ~

this movie was originally released in 2004 with the title The Good Shepherd. i can only guess it’s some marketing thing to repackage it and put it on the shelf (and i guess it worked ‘cause i rented it). being that it’s a canadian production, i’m guessing that an american distribution might have meant they were trying to avoid confusion with a hollywood film of the same title (starring angelina jolie of all people).

anyway, with trailers for Saint Ralph and Emily Rose at the start up of the disc, i was hopeful that this wouldn’t be another pack of lame clichés and relativism and i was mostly not disappointed (though Gordon Pinsent is fast becoming type-cast as a bitchy clerical administrator).

i’ve always liked Christian Slater in spite of his bad reputation and what most people call his “jack nicholson” imitation. still, i laughed at the fervor of this german review at Filmkritik:
Nein, nein und nochmals nein! Christian Slater ist kein Priester, und auch kein Pater, nicht einmal ein Ministrant. Er erweist sich in dieser Rolle als vollkommene Fehlbesetzung.
it basically says: no no and again no! Christian Slater isn’t a priest, and he’s not a Father, not even a minister. He is completely miscast and it shows.

personally. i thought slater was nicely understated in this as father daniel clemens (oh what a bad name). it’s funny to see slater dressed as a priest, but i got over that; which speaks to the degree at which he was not playing the usual scenery-chewing malcontent.

stephen rea (another of my favorite actors) was also in this as a financial lawyer for the diocese. unfortunately, he didn’t get nearly enough screentime (which is actually very problematic for the plot since he ought to). molly parker (best known for her role in Deadwood as the widow Garrett) rounds out the cast as a non-love-interest for generic relationship tension.

the story tries hard to be a lot of things, particularly a murder mystery (a priest is accused of killing a 19 year-old male prostitute), and a story of transformation (father clemens goes from being a greasy fundraising lapdog of the bishop to a humble parish priest). unfortunately, the script is so badly written and the production so riddled with inconsistencies that neither story is told very effectively and we’re left making huge leaps of assumptions just to tie bits and pieces together. it’s a shame too because it could have been all that much better.

the film has the usual lame plot angles: pleading the seal of confession, grouchy underhanded shenanegins and snottiness in the bishop’s house (remind me to write a story some time about a kindly, good bishop who doesn’t act like a used-car-salesman or a smarmy politician), male prostitutes, and a failed romance between the priest and a woman who now must help him solve the case. but in spite of all that, it was relatively inoffensive and i watched it without flinching or yawning (no Nietzsche-spouting rogue priests running amuck and it was at least mildly engaging). but there was nothing here that was terribly new and so many plot holes and leaps in logic (and unexplained loose ends) that i would definitely rank this on the take it or leave it list.

if you like slater and rea and molly you may enjoy this. if nothing else, it’s something to watch if there’s nothing else available. in spite of the lurid-sounding subject matter, it’s a pg-13 effort (like Emily Rose) with a relatively positive attitude toward the Church. it’s frustrating that we can’t seem to get better writers. some elbow grease and polish would have made a big difference in this production.

one of the many variations on the poster for this film ~
i really dig the black and white and red!

i must have come across five different posters while looking for a picture to post (in fact, I couldn’t find the film at all listed under the new title yet ~ not even at imdb.com). clearly, the company was having trouble marketing it, which raises a lot of interesting conundrums. Emily Rose was sort of sold as a horror film (even though it really wasn’t). this was was sold as a murder mystery, but it’s so unshocking (even banal) that the spin on the packaging is actually pretty gratuitous (all that blood and penitence going on there!).

hard to market a Christian film these days without trying to sell it into a genre. that’s pretty yuck if you ask me, but it seems to be the way of the world.

: o p

thoughts and comments are welcome. if you’ve seen this film (in any of its incarnations), or have ideas about the "Christian" market feel free to add your own considerations!

link x-posted to neosaints
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