Review: ‘The Club,’ bizarre tale of Catholic conspiracy

Tom Long
The Detroit News

If the Catholic church took a well-earned gut punch from “Spotlight,” then it’s being kicked while curled up on the ground by “The Club.”

This at-first-placid and then ever-increasingly-bizarre tale of guilt, penance, inquisition and general awfulness takes place in a small Chilean beach town, where four priests live under the command of an initially kind, but ultimately ruthless nun, Hermana Monica (Antonia Zegers).

The group trains and races a beloved greyhound named Rayo, and even though the living arrangement seems odd, the members seem at peace with themselves. Until another priest is brought to the house, causing a major disruption.

This in turn brings another priest, Father Garcia (Marcelo Alonso), who begins asking pointed questions of all the house’s occupants, revealing the dark secrets that have confined them to this obscure retreat. The ugliness of his charges are amplified more crudely — and publicly — by a man named Sandokan (Roberto Farias) who was molested repeatedly by a priest while young.

Sandokan stands outside the house, explicitly and loudly describing what the priest did to him, fully mad with guilt, self-loathing and a built-in need for the church, and yet is also surprisingly incisive. He knows how messed up he is and why.

Eventually, with this public disgrace at hand, Father Garcia deems Sandokan a bigger problem than his fellow fallen priests. And, as in “Spotlight,” the church decides to protect itself, although the plan here is downright grisly.

The great thing is that director Pablo Larrain makes all of his damaged characters somewhat likable and sympathetic (although the likability dims toward the end). Which only makes this meditation on mercy, forgiveness and twisted raw power more disturbing.

Tom Long is the former Detroit News film critic.

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‘The Club’

GRADE: B+

Not rated

Running time: 98 minutes