Wednesday, April 20, 2011

thoughts on "The Confession"

I've been watching Kiefer Sutherland's Hulu series "The Confession" with interest. The premise is fairly cliché: a hard-bitten hitman gets introspective. The cliché is torqued in new ways, though: it's not obvious that the hitman (played by Sutherland) is particularly contrite, nor that he's anything more than fascinated by the problem of human evil. The priest (played by John Hurt, who seems tailor-made for this sort of victim/prey role) wants to believe there's something about this man that can be salvaged, but he's shut down at every turn. Is this all a game? Does the hitman really care about the topic he's discussing? Will the priest be able to stop the killer from killing again, or will he end up as one victim among many?

The starkness and simplicity of the scenario actually serve to turn cliché into unpredictability. At this point, I have no clue whether the priest is going to bite the big one, whether he'll succeed at stopping this Jack Bauer analogue from committing his next murder, or whether we're in for some bizarre or gruesome twist ending.

The series isn't perfect, of course; very few webisodes really deliver on what they promise (the BSG webisodes come close, though, partly by lowering the viewer's expectations). One problem is that each episode wants to tell more story than is possible in five minutes. This creates narrative/structural difficulties, such as episodes that end in mid-flashback. Some might consider this a nifty side effect of the webisode genre, but I just find it awkward.

I'm also uncomfortable with the assassin's background story. For the most part, there's little to distinguish this guy (who's nameless, at least for now) from Jack Bauer. He's very good at what he does, and he's very, very angry. He's also articulate and can smell bullshit from a mile away-- all Bauer-like traits. Yet despite his obvious intelligence and skill, his back-story has him starting out as some sort of two-bit hood. Where'd he get his training? Would he have had time for that sort of training while working his odd jobs? This question bugs me to no end.

And since I've seen seven episodes of a projected ten, I guess I won't find out much more. We're barreling toward the climax, and it feels almost as if the story has barely begun.

I'd actually love to see this piece converted into a stage play. I think it'd be a great hit (pardon the accidental pun). For now, all I can do is enjoy the ride; it'll be interesting to see how it all ends. My bet, and it's a safe one: the priest buys it. I seriously doubt we'll get some Hollywood-style turnabout, where the priest somehow wrestles with the assassin and accidentally shoots him. The coolest scenario, for my money, would be for the priest and the killer to part ways with nothing resolved. Considering the enormous, indissoluble issues they're discussing, this would be appropriate.

Maybe there should be some sort of deus ex machina ending. Just before the hitman kills the priest, an alien bursts into the church and fries everybody. Or how about this: just before the hitman kills the priest, the priest stands up, whips around to face his killer, rips off his vestments and reveals two enormous (and incongruously young) breasts. Or a Doberman leaps out of nowhere and eats the assassin's gun, skids to a stop, sits in a rigid posture, and begins quoting from the Sermon on the Mount in the voice of James Earl Jones. Or maybe, just before our hitman pulls the trigger, the entire church flies apart, revealing itself to be an elaborate stage set onto which an enormous Mel Brooks dance number stomps, gavottes, and pirouettes. Or maybe Keanu Reeves should appear, eat the assassin's bullet (literally eat it), then poop out a lead statue which he then hands to a waiting Yoda.

All of those endings would be marvelous, but in terms of anticipated fatalities, I think "The Confession" offers only a limited number of scenarios:

1. both men live
2. both men die
3. the killer lives but the priest dies
4. the priest lives but the killer dies

Pretty stark.

In the meantime, I have to credit those other churchgoers for being so patient: at this point, seven episodes in, the priest's been in that confessional for a pretty long time.


1 comment:

Charles said...

Speaking of stage plays, how's your own project coming?

(Word Verification fun...

dishniz (n): a horrifying portmanteau of old and new slang used to describe an attractive woman. ("dish" + "shiznit"))