Casting Charlton Heston as a Mexican narcotics officer didn't ruin Touch of Evil
. However, writer-director Roland Joffé is no Orson Welles—it's been a quarter century since Joffé made The Mission
and The Killing Fields—
and the curious Anglo casting of this historical drama proves risible to the point of distracting. Robert (Dougray Scott), a journalist researching the life of Catholic priest and Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá (Brit Charlie Cox) on the eve of his canonization, discovers his estranged, dying father, Manolo (American Wes Bentley), once shared a complicated friendship with Escrivá. Told via flashbacks, the muddled screenplay oscillates between Escrivá's efforts to escape the Red Terror during the Spanish Civil War and the fictionalized Manolo's service as a nationalist mole who infiltrates Republican rebel forces. Joffé dedicates far more effort to the sporadic battle scenes and vintage costumes than delving into the motives of any character, particularly Escrivá and the precepts of the personal prelature he founded. Clunky dialogue and ham-fisted editing consigns this religious "epic" to the level of a banal FoxFaith production.