Confession review – priest, cop and bloodied gunman face off in church thriller

Colm Meany leads a compelling trio of actors but but this talky drama labours under the weight of a plodding script

Show, don’t tell. It’s one of cinema’s cardinal rules – not that anyone told Colm Meaney’s compulsively questioning priest in David Beton’s laborious thriller, or the wounded gunman (True Blood’s Stephen Moyer) who staggers into his church with a yarn to spin. You have to be very gifted to successfully flout that rule, and writer-director Beton – also responsible for 2017’s The Hatton Garden Job, under the name Ronnie Thompson – can’t get his characters to transfix, even if they keep interest flickering intermittently.

Meaney’s Father Peter is admirably stoic with a gun in his face. In fact, he soon turns the tables on the interloper, Victor, who he implores to own up to whatever sins have led to him bleeding from the stomach in the nave. But while Victor recounts his saga – something about his dead wife and his estrangement from his teenage daughter – another bleeding intruder, Willow (Clare-Hope Ashitey, little seen since Children of Men), is lurking in a wardrobe in Father Peter’s study. When she finally emerges, brandishing a police badge, she upends everything Victor has been saying.

But while she is telling it, and Victor retorts, this pulpy braiding of corrupt and in-deep-cover cops feels arbitrary and inconsequential. Despite all three leads pulling their weight, the scenes only build up tepid dramatic heat and offer no real Rashomon-style perspective shifts. Father Peter has his own story, feeding into the theme of failed fathers and setting up an effective final twist. For all the rueful mood Beton tries to nurture, there’s something inert about Confession. The budget presumably prohibited it, but it is what flashbacks were invented for.

• Confession is available on digital platforms on 31 January.