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'The Sinner' review

The Sinner, a stylized indie film of revenge and redemption, has just become available for instant purchase and download via Distrify. The Sinner is a local creative endeavor starring Austinite David Christopher and Savannah Welch, and was released last October on DVD. Thanks to the new film distribution model Distrify, fans of the film as well as those just curious can easily access the movie (for a small fee).

Written and directed by Charles Wiedman, The Sinner surrounds a gun-toting, revenge-seeking tough guy who decides to go after Satan himself. After his wife is brutally murdered, the sinner (aka Fisher Rood) decides to not only take out the scumbags who are responsible, but to go to the ends of the earth to find the ultimate source of evil and stamp him out.

Along the way, Fisher Rood helps a lost soul find her way, dodges a secret agency bent on apprehending him, and dispatches a bunch of evil-doing ruffians with extreme prejudice. He also stares out into a lot of distant horizons, smokes and drinks in prodigious amounts, brutalizes baddies, and manages to look really cool doing it.

That last point brings me to one of the strongest elements of the film; the stylization. Wiedman has managed to create a gritty yet stylized realism to this pic that works well with the religious themes. It's fun to watch just for some of the captured visuals, though the storyline suffers from an overall lack of cohesion.

Instead of a more traditional narrative, The Sinner ends up feeling like a collection of really cool-looking video vignettes. Because of this disjointedness, the audience tends to lose all sense of what is happening (chronologically or otherwise), and the abrupt and open-ended conclusion feels all the more misplaced. If you aren't going to have a cohesive story, then you really have to make it up with an explosive conclusion that, in the very least, brings everything together in a resonant way.

Another one of the strong points of The Sinner is the awesome soundtrack, which features musical stylings reminiscent of old southern spirituals mixed with classic rock. The sound goes perfectly with the gritty toughess of the characters and story, as well as the religious allegory.

While the religious elements of the story were at times heavy-handed, there is no doubt that the main character of Fisher Rood is an anti-hero that audiences can get behind. Though the plot is extremely archetypal (read formulaic), the religious aspects do make the man-seeks-vengeance conceit a little new. And it's always fun to know, without a doubt, who are the good characters and who are the evil characters.

My biggest complaint, besides the disjointed narrative, is the "secret agent" sub-plot. I'm not sure why this was included in the film, and the two secret agent characters felt very over-the-top and nonsensical. Plus, the super-sleek/high tech secret agency seemed anachronistic when compared to the gritty atmosphere and stylization of the rest of the movie.

Christopher and Welch stood out with notable performances. Welch's vulnerable "fallen" Angela Darling was subtle and not overdone. Christopher stole the movie (as would be expected in this kind of film) as a larger-than-life anti-hero. He reminded me of a mixture of the Stetson Man and Clint Eastwood, except with more of an emotional appeal.

The cast was stock-full of Austin talents, including Katherine Willis, Jesse Dayton and Alex Jones.

Click here to check out The Sinner trailer. If you're interested in purchasing the film, buy it instantly through Distrify.

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