Shot here by Seattle native Nicholas Gyeney, The Penitent Man plays like an old episode of The Twilight Zone. You'll soon guess its big reveal, as a stranger (Lance Henriksen, our favorite cyborg in Aliens) comes to visit a therapist (local stage actor Lathrop Walker), with far too much knowledge about the latter's life, job, and marriage. As talk turns to wormholes and the butterfly effect, The Penitent Man mires itself into groan-tastic dialogue ("Like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun") and a fatal case of tell, don't show. The runtime of 88 minutes is far too long for what little the movie hopes to say about fate and free will. And unless you're Darren Aronofsky directing Pi, it's best not to wed grand sci-fi philosophy to indie-movie budgets. Most of the film consists of two guys in a room talking about how dark the future will be . . . any minute now . . . Armageddon lies ahead . . . possibly in the very next scene . . . which never arrives. It makes one yearn for the sci-fi clarity of Stargate, or even Hot Tub Time Machine.
Would you listen to Lance Henriksen?
Opens at Varsity, Fri., April 1. Not rated. 88 minutes.