From the very first scene — in which knights on horseback raid a modern New York museum, pursued by a female protagonist wearing high heels and a cocktail dress — this two-part NBC movie is a mess of biblical proportions. Mira Sorvino plays an archaeologist who’s coyly referred to as “Mrs. Indiana Jones,” but the goal is clearly to knock off “The Da Vinci Code,” pursuing an ancient artifact that involves the Vatican and all kinds of quasi-historic mumbo-jumbo. Sitting through both nights will qualify not just as an act of faith but one that may approach self-flagellation.
RHI Entertainment used to provide such lavish fare to the major networks for sweeps periods, but today its international co-productions generally run on lesser-seen networks, like ION. NBC’s lark with “The Last Templar” (one suspects the web struck a favorable license-fee deal) should keep the polarity flowing in that direction.
Based on a novel by Raymond Khoury, this adaptation by writer Suzette Couture and director Paolo Barman quickly descends into gibberish, as Tess Chaykin (Sorvino) gets embroiled in the quest for a missing artifact, originally possessed by a religious order thought to have disappeared 700 years ago.
Her pursuit brings her into contact with an FBI agent, Sean Daley (Scott Foley), with whom she instantly begins engaging in flirty banter, while his lecherous partner gushes, “She can dig for my priceless artifacts any day.” A Vatican representative (Victor Garber) also monitors the theft, pushing the bureau for signs of progress.
A trail of dead bodies leads Tess to an old colleague of her father’s who is apparently caught up in the search. In night two, that means Tess and Sean begin schlepping through the desert, culminating in an astonishingly goofy, wave-tossed action sequence aboard a boat and an 11th-hour appearance by Omar Sharif, presumably for no other reason than to wow international program buyers.
Given the glut of MacGuffin-chasing characters and the sporadically comic tone, it’s as if “Da Vinci Code” took a wrong turn and landed in outtakes of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Early on it’s pretty clear the four hours won’t contain a single original thought, down to gauzy flashbacks of the 13th century knights and dialogue that dictates that when Tess exclaims “Rats!,” sure enough, her feet are surrounded by them. As for a thread regarding Tess’ lack of faith, any serious contemplation of religion seems several notches above “Templar’s” pay grade.
The two-parter’s pleasures thus boil down to a possible drinking game (take a swig each time someone says “Tess”) or admiring Sorvino’s pluck delivering lines like “I’m nobody’s ‘baby.’ ” And “The Last Templar” is nobody’s idea of a seaworthy miniseries.