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Order, The

I have nothing good to say about "The Order."

I probably should have run screaming when the film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, refused to hold press screenings — movie studio speak for "Our movie reeks, and we don't want anyone to know it."

But, brave soul that I am, I pushed on, and found a way to see the movie. Big mistake.

Writer/director Brian Helgeland's religious "thriller" is a mess. It's purportedly about a priest's crisis of faith after his mentor's death — the fallout of a young life shaken by unexplained death.

But in Helgeland's hands, "The Order" is little more than a series of random plot points and religious babble, mixed up together and spit onto the screen in no particular order. We have characters falling in love without explanation or chemistry; we have people popping up in "sinister" plots that seem irrelevant to the story as we know it. And we have one character digging deeper into a mystery that we thought already was solved; that, or we just didn't understand it at all.

The worst part of all, though, is that none of these things matter. Because, frankly, we don't care.

From the moment we're introduced to our priest, Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger), we have no reason to care about him. He's a member of an arcane order of priests called the Carolingians, and he's introduced as he says a Mass in Latin, with his back to his congregation.

A few minutes later, he learns that Brother Dominic — his mentor — apparently has committed suicide near the Vatican. So he books a flight to Rome; before he can go, though, a strange girl shows up at his church.

Her name is Mara (Shannyn Sossamon); apparently, she shot Alex during an exorcism about a year back, and now has escaped from her mental institution and come to visit him. So he takes her to Rome with him, where they meet up with the only other living Carolingian, Thomas Garrett (Mark Addy), and start looking into their Dominic's death.

And some of those things could have been interesting, if the audience weren't so busy not caring. But Ledger is so wooden as Alex, and the rest of the cast is so light on both chemistry and charm, that they just never won me over.

So for 100 minutes, we sit in the theater watching people we don't care about do things that were either unexplained or unbelievable as they tried to understand the death of a person we didn't know.

"The Order" is rated R for strong scenes of suspense violence (including brawling and some gunplay), occasional use of strong profanity, simulated sex and gore. Running time: 102 minutes.