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'The Last Sin Eater': Good intentions gone wrong

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers

Good intentions don't always translate into a good movie.

"The Last Sin Eater" proves that. The production is the latest offering from FoxFaith, one of the new film studios devoted to creating faith-based movies.

There is a built-in audience for this genre. Just because there is an audience doesn't mean the product can get away with being poorly acted, written and produced. That is taking advantage of the audience. "The Last Sin Eater," based on the book by Francine Rivers, is guilty of such actions.

The title of the film refers to the Celtic practice of designating one member of a community to be the sin eater for the dead. This person can remove the sins of the departed. But, in the process, the chosen one becomes a social and spiritual leper to the group.

This practice is brought to America by a group of immigrants who settle in Appalachia the 1850s.

Cadirbes (Liana Liberato), a 10-year-old girl haunted by an overwhelming guilt, seeks out the Sin Eater (Peter Wingfield). Cadi's hope is the sin eater can rid her of her burden without having to wait until she is dead. In the search for the relief, Cadi begins to uncover the truth about the practice.

She gets help from a mysterious traveler (Henry Thomas), who preaches from the Bible about "the only real sin eater."

It is in these scenes that the script by Brian Bird takes huge leaps of faith. The story suggests that centuries of a belief can be replaced by the brief appearance of one mysterious stranger. The acceptance by the characters in the film of this new teaching comes far too swiftly to be believable. A movie like "End of the Spear" shows that such transformations take time.

Director Michael Landon Jr. stages the film as if he were in charge of a reenactment village. The sets look fake. The characters don't interact. They just seem to come together in a choreographed manner in times of big meetings.

The few scenes requiring special effects are shot so poorly that they become comical. These are supposed to be key emotional scenes. There also are major flaws in the creation of the characters. One example is Cadi's mother (Elizabeth Lackey). She becomes distraught over the death of one daughter but doesn't seem to care when Cadi is gone for days.

Other than Louise Fletcher's performance as the group's busybody, the acting is amateurish.

In the case of "The Last Sin Eater" it would have been better if everyone had practiced more before they preached.

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THE LAST SIN EATER

Grade: D-plus

Rating: PG (adult themes)

Starring: Louise Fletcher, Henry Thomas, Liana Liberato

Director: Michael Landon Jr.

Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

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