Sometimes all you need for a film to work is a lead performer so committed to the part that it makes the entire project sing. Writer-director Mark O’Brien’s The Righteous is about a former priest named Frederic (Henry Czerny), whose sins return to haunt him. It’s a decent religious crisis film. Gorgeous, but a subject well-tread. What sets it apart is Czerny’s quiet and intense performance. It plays to his strengths.
Not to discount O’Brien’s visual filmmaking. He uses black-and-white to great effect, the story as devoid of color as Frederic is of hope. As a priest, Frederic preached a world of stark moral contrasts, and through his worst mistakes, he managed to build one just for himself.
Unfortunately, the story — which sees Frederic met by a mysterious stranger named Aaron (played by O’Brien) who knows more about Frederic than he thought possible — is functional as a vehicle for filmmaking but not quite sharp enough to cut deeply. It’s a lot of temptations, lectures and bleak revelations, with bits of ambiguous visual metaphor that feel done before. Functional isn’t a negative, per se. It’s not a bad film or a bad experience, thanks to O’Brien and Czerny. It simply feels like a film with such care put into its aesthetics and acting should linger longer once it ends. The Righteous doesn’t.
The Arrow Blu-ray presentation features the film in 1080p with 5.1 DTS-HD Audio. Special features include an audio commentary with O’Brien and editor Spencer Jones; interviews with O’Brien, producers, and actors, including Czerny; a roundtable discussion; a stage presentation; and a reversible sleeve with newly commissioned artwork. The first pressing also includes an illustrated collector’s booklet.