Acknowledging that Kiefer Sutherland will forever be type cast as a one-dimensional, Jack Bauer type may help you better appreciate The Confession. Aired exclusively on Hulu (before it added the “Plus,” made you subscribe and became no fun), The Confession is a Web series that ran for nine weeks starting in March 2011.
The show’s plot reads like a bad joke, except in The Confession’s case, it’s all serious business. A hitman (Kiefer Sutherland, speaking in a Jack Bauer monotone throughout) walks into a confessional and confesses his sins without hesitation. He’s murdered before, and he’ll be doing so again unless the priest (John Hurt) can convince him otherwise. So begins their theological discussion of faith and religion, good and evil. The two men’s stances on the subject of murder are rather simple; the hitman believes some people deserve to die, while the priest can’t even stand to hear of the confessor’s stories, let alone forgive him of his sins. We see these murders — or more specifically, “hits” — and the confessor’s introduction into the whacking business through aptly positioned flashbacks.
As they plunge deeper into the existential, and more is revealed about both men, we go deeper than just their professions. What begins as a clear cut showdown between good and bad becomes more of a jumbled grey area of basic human existence which tells us there is evil in everyone. It’s interesting to watch unfold.
Sutherland and Hurt, with their vast differences, share great chemistry inside the confessional (makes sense considering that is the only location where their scenes were shot). Hurt, with bags under his eyes and wrinkles to spare, accurately portrays a man of God who desperately and poorly hides his deteriorating faith in humanity, and in himself. The confessor can sense this as clearly as we can, making this weakness an easy vessel for him to manipulate.
Though Sutherland is not far off from 24’s Jack Bauer, he is still the best at playing the roughed up, warn down killing machine — whether as the hero or the criminal. It’s actually not as if there’s anyone to blame for Sutherland’s type casting other than himself; along with starring, he wears the hat of producer for this Internet project. (In the bonus interviews, the cast and crew indicate Sutherland was quasi-director, too, though Brad Mirman gets that billing in the credits.)
Where the problem arises for The Confession is the script. I hung on to every moment of every mini-episode when they first aired. Each seemed to bring excitement and raise a new question about faith or humanity. But on DVD, with the episodes pieced together to resemble a motion picture and the serial nature of the project lost, the drawn out pacing of this concept is more evident and less successful.
Writer/director Brad Mirman constructs an original and entertaining script, but the actors — namely the ones confined within a box — are the ones doing the heavy lifting. Sutherland and Hurt end up playing an emotionally redundant game of hot potato, bouncing the same questions and concepts off each another in attempts of finding both the answers to these questions and hold on long enough until the climax finally occurs. It’s a great idea with limited materials/production values behind it, even with less than an hour of runtime to fill.
The DVD presents a similar problem, presenting us with featurettes and extra scenes that exist merely to provide the copy writers something to list on the outside of the box. The extra scenes, featuring the back stories of the supposed bad guys that the hitman offs, in particular feel forced. The result is that The Confession may not appeal much to non-Sutherland fans, and isn’t worth more than one viewing.
According to Flatiron Film Company, the show tallied over 10 million views before it was done. I’d say this project was a success for those who worked on it, and provided a unique viewing experience for the faithful who tuned in every week online. But is there any reason to own it? No. The answer is no.