Directed by Brian Helgeland, starring Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Benno Fürmann, Mark Addy and Peter Weller.

Immortality, guaranteed fresh good looks forever, gatekeeper of heaven – the job of Sin Eater seems like a decent proposition; that's until you read the small print. After 500 years, the weight of other people's evil-doing can wear a man down and more pertinently, can start making him a bit nasty. Which is why the current Sin Eater wants out.

Heath Ledger plays Alex, a Catholic priest who is part of a alternative order in the Church - a secret world stemming from medieval times, where exorcisms are commonplace and modern Catholic doctrine is taken, quite literally, with a pinch of salt.

The sudden and puzzling death of his spiritual mentor and father figure Cardinal Driscoll (Weller) takes Alex to Rome, along with his beloved Mara (Sossamon), with whom he has yet to consummate his relationship, and fellow renegade priest, Thomas (Addy).

It is here, in the dusty book shops and gothic libraries that he comes across the Sin Eater concept: an individual who can save the souls of the excommunicated by taking on the burden of their sins – absorbed into a piece of bread and salt, then ingested - just before they die. "If Hitler had one in the bunker", says one book-shop owner, "he'd be sitting on a cloud right now."

Director (and also producer and writer) Brian Helgeland creates a compelling story, most of which takes place in the shadowy alleyways of Rome. While Ledger is initially convincing as the moody young priest, his limited range is evident later when he's called on to do grief; even the biggest fan of the good-looking Australian will feel their eyebrow arching heavenwards.

Sossamon is fine in a fairly uninteresting role and British actor Mark Addy has little to do but run around after the pair of lovebirds. German actor, Benno Fürmann, however, looks like he was born to play the world weary Sin Eater who is looking for a successor so that he can die in peace himself.

Though at times it ventures into daftness, 'The Sin Eater' is mostly entertaining and credible. And there's a nice twist at the finale, which is played out somewhat epically in a beautiful Latin cathedral. It's a sumptuous affair, all candles and gothic crosses and passion.

Anne-Louise Foley