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The Confession: A Review

Updated on March 16, 2013

The Confession is an interesting movie. Not so much interesting in that it's going to provoke a big philosophical debate, which is clearly the point, but in that it's a mass of confusing screen-writing, poor directing, and awful acting and yet I still find myself enjoying it.

Ben Kingsley and Amy Irving play Harry and Sarah Fertig. Their son, Stevie, comes down with appendicitis and dies after a lengthy wait in the ER. Feeling slighted by some absolutely abysmal service he received in the ER (hours pass and no one takes even a passing second to see that something is truly wrong with the child), Harry takes matters into his own hands and kills three of the hospital workers in order to prove a point of some kind to the city at large. A Jewish man of deeply religious beliefs, Harry turns himself to the police and plans to plead guilty.

Convinced that Harry doesn't deserve to go to jail, his boss, Renoble (Jay O. Sanders), hires Alec Baldwin's Roy Bleakie, a defense attorney supposedly known for being able to get his clients off no matter what. We're shown Bleakie blackmailing a D.A. with photographic proof of an affair in order to get some charges dropped, which I suppose is intended to show us how ruthless Bleakie is, but if we're supposed to feel sympathy for a public official who cheats on his wife and then is stupid enough to do so in full view of a window, I don't think that quite worked. At any rate, everyone Bleakie is associated with, from friends, other lawyers, and the judge he is sleeping with, seems to be convinced that he absolutely must convince Harry to change his plea from Guilty to Not Guilty by reason of Mental Defect. If Bleakie can do this, then he's on the fast track to becoming the next D.A. because, well...huh? Things take an even weirder turn in the final act of the movie when you find out that the only reason Harry's boss is footing Bleakie's bill is because Harry has proof that his boss is crooked, and if he is found to be crazy, his testimony will be useless against him in court.

The biggest problem with this movie is that things make no sense. Wait times in ERs can be brutal, and having to fill out forms in triplicate is a pain in the butt, but even at the absolute worst, if you brought a child literally on the brink of death into a hospital, he would be treated. Everyone in the movie seems completely convinced that a guilty man who wants to plead guilty is crazy when he could try a mental defense. That Harry's boss wants Harry to be found incompetent in order to avoid persecution doesn't hold any water because even if Harry is crazy, there is physical written proof that he is up to no good; who cares if he is crazy when there is a legitimate spreadsheet that proves Renoble is poisoning New York's water supply? Why would Bleakie be allowed to tell the court, at the sentencing hearing, that Renoble is crooked and only paying his retainer's fee, and why would this be proof that Harry isn't crazy?

I can see what they were trying to do here, I really do. The idea of a man committing a crime and wanting to be punished for it, while everyone else thinks he should try to get out of it, isn't a horrible idea by any means. A religious man seeking repentance from God from what he did is certainly a topic that has been explored before and could certainly be explored further. Harry, however, is ridiculously one dimensional. Ben Kingsley has turned in fine performances before, but this is not it. He's pretty awful here, and some (though not all) of the blame for that has to be laid at the character's feet. There is never any doubt, from the moment Harry and Bleakie meet that Harry is going to plead guilty. He is 100% convinced it is the right thing to do and he never waffles, never doubts it, and at the end of the movie, that is what he does. By no means is he the only one to half-ass it here (Amy Irving is pretty bad, too), but as so much of this really has to depend on him, it falls flat. The fact that the directing is nothing more exciting then talking headshots also does not help.

And yet, as I mentioned earlier, despite a script that makes no sense, actors tripping over each other to turn in as awful a performance as they can, a third act that really, really didn't need to be there, I didn't hate my time with this. Baldwin turns in a fine enough performance and the ideas at the very, very base of this movie were enough to keep me going.


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