Producers: Lucinda Rhodes Thakrar and Jeet Thakrar   Director: David Beton   Screenplay: David Beton   Cast: Stephen Moyer, Colm Meaney, Claire Hope-Ashitey, Kris Johnson and Sadie Jean Shirley   Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment

Grade: D+

Catholics know that in their sacrament of reconciliation, the penitent must recite an act of contrition and perform a penance meted out by the officiating priest.  Everyone involved with “Confession” should be expected to do the same.

The primary culprit, however, is writer-director David Beton, who previously worked under the name Ronnie Thompson.  He has tried to concoct what’s essentially a closed-room puzzler in which three characters engage in highly-charged conversations filled with twists and revelations that, in the end, fit together to form a coherent narrative.  Sort of like “The Usual Suspects,” perhaps.

Or maybe not.  That utterly engrossing 1995 collaboration between Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer worked perfectly; while convoluted, “Confession” manages to be both ludicrous and dull.

It begins with a seriously wounded man named Victor Strong (Stephen Moyer) accosting Father Peter (Colm Meaney) in his church one night and forcing him to close down the place.  The priest tries to convince him to go to a hospital for treatment, but Victor refuses and Father Peter patches him up as best he can.  He also tries to call for help, but doesn’t succeed.  Then Victor slowly explains who he is and why he’s wounded and on the run.

Unbeknownst to the two men, there’s a third person in the church—Willow (Claire Hope-Ashitey).  She’s hiding in a cabinet, also seriously wounded.  Eventually she emerges to confront them, and her story conflicts with Victor’s. 

He claims to be a deep undercover cop, tracking down the criminal mastermind responsible for the murder of his wife and his estrangement from his daughter.  She flashes a badge to prove that she is on the job, and accuses Victor of being a corrupt ex-officer.  Which one of them is telling the truth?  Or are thy both lying?  Father Peter is caught in the middle.

There’s a great deal of argument back and forth that eventually breaks into violence, which leads to Victor’s encouraging the priest to tell his story.  It’s a doozy, involving military service (which explains his handiness with firearms and his reluctance to use them) and child abandonment.  And, of course, it eventually ties in with what’s gone before, especially after two additional characters show up in the sacred space.

To be fair, there are surprises in “Confession,” but since they’re mostly outlandish and ill-prepared for, they just make things increasingly risible as they accumulate, especially since Breton lards the script with mountains of repetitive dialogue to pad it to feature length.  As director he also conspires with production designer Jamie Foote, cinematographer Andrew Rodger and editor Neil Leuthall to give a dank, claustrophobic feel to the proceedings that elicits crude over-emoting from all the cast, exacerbated by the excessive use of close-ups.  Dmitri Smith’s brooding score adds to the oppressive tone.

It might be noted that the script contains the most overused line in contemporary screenwriting—“You don’t have to do this!”—not once but twice.  The makers didn’t have to do this, either.