When I read the back of the movie box, when it talked about an ex-military priest trying to save the church by making deals with the mob and seducing a nun, I was cynically excited. I went into this imagining a pulpy mob movie with a Vatican theme. Car chases in military jeeps though Italian streets! Christopher Reeve is a catholic priest hosting nun orgies, punching gangsters and shooting a tommy gun! Christopher Reeve, sitting at an expensive mahogany desk, shoves his face into a pile of black market chocolate bars in a fit of self-destruction! "This movie won't be good," I thought, "but it will at least be fun."
Well, I was half right. I wish screenwriter Abraham Polonsky and director Frank Perry made the movie in my head instead of the one in theirs. If this movie were the movie I imagined it would be, I could sit through all the bland dialogue, spoken by actors who seem to hate the movie as much as I do. Polonsky and Perry tried for straight drama without concerning themselves with the level of character development that it would require. Our protagonist, Father Flaherty (Christopher Reeve), is intended to be a cunning hero with no clue how to manage his own desires who suffers from a crisis of faith and falls from grace, but this process is given the absolute bare minimum of thought. Flaherty's moral dilemmas and subsequent fall from grace are based on the most simplistic moral arguments, something you would expect a priest to be trained to deal with.
What's worse is that Flaherty is arguing on the side of corruption the entire time. Flaherty does not seem at all phased by the idea of making his church deal with the mafia. Our protagonist can't possibly fall from grace in this movie, he was never there in the first place. At the center of this clusterfuck is Christopher Reeve, who, at least in this movie, has all the charisma of a particularly handsome coffee table. Watching him dance at the beginning of the film is almost amusing in how stiff and awkward he looks, which might make this the most enjoyable part of the movie.
Many of actors turn in decent performances, but their efforts are all for naught. It's one thing to have the main character be the only character in a story that changes, it's even okay if all of those characters are 'types,' but all of those characters still need to be either interesting or necessary. This movie didn't need half of its characters to tell the story they were trying to tell, and of the ones it did, only the Mob boss and the Pope were worth listening to.
Genevieve Bujold performance as the nun that Flaherty falls in love with is particularly disappointing. Bujold, while perhaps trying to portray ambivalence, comes off as bored during her seduction, and is generally unsurprising thereafter. Then after her love scene with Reeve, she has the exact opposite problem; she starts trying way too hard to convince us she's in love, or angry. There's one scene where it looks like she's tensing every muscle in her body, as if she thought she could squeeze a genuine feeling out of it. The rest of the time she just looks like she's watching television.
Even if you don't hate this movie as much as I do, there's still no reason to waste two hours watching it. Though, let's say you lost a bet, or someone asks to you to write a review of it because the DVD came out recently. Let me make your life easier. Grab your favorite alcoholic beverage, trick or bribe your friends to show up to your home that night, then do the following:
Since moving to South Korea, Logan Beaver has written plays, comics, and flash fiction (he did a lot of that before, mind you), gone on adventures and drank more on a Tuesday than is socially acceptable outside of college. He lives there with his girlfriend Collette, and his laptop Pornbot 5000. He is trying to learn how to speak Korean and draw, both of which are very hard. He thinks that, by learning and doing new things, people become something better than they once were, like Pokemon. If he were a Pokemon, he would be Snorlax, though he is generally unfamiliar with Pokemon beyond the original 151.