This movie could use an exorcism.
Rarely does a movie fly off the rails as utterly and preposterously as does the latest exorcism movie, The Rite. What starts off as a reasonably intelligent and interesting thriller quickly descends into heavy–handed schlock. Even Anthony Hopkins’ best efforts can’t save this movie from a dismal screenplay penned by Michael Petroni.
When disillusioned young priest Michael Kovak (played by newcomer Colin O’Donoghue) tries to leave his seminary, he is instead sent to Rome to train as an exorcist under the care of Father Lucas (Hopkins). Kovak, now a hotshot atheist, tries to disprove all notions of God and Satan by attributing demonic possession to insanity. Although previously convinced of his scientific approach, Michael finds his lack of faith harder to justify after time with Father Lucas (you can probably see where story goes from here).
Though The Rite draws from a long tradition of exorcism movies, it fails to achieve the fright factor set by many of its predecesssors. The movie too easily settles for the “gotcha” moment, never building the suspense required for a successful scare. While the movie is occasionally startling, it isn’t the least bit spooky.
The one thing The Rite does have going for it is a good sense of humor. Hopkins especially has many dry moments that make his character endearing. But about halfway through the movie, the comedy becomes less intentional: the pinnacle of the film’s risibility comes when Hopkins violently pimp slaps a small child.
During one exorcism, Michael physically restrains a possessed girl while Lucas tries to instill the word of God in her. This is a perfect metaphor for what this movie wants to do to its audience. Instead of dealing with a crisis of faith intelligently, Petroni and Håfström lazily have Satan pretty much just tell Michael that he and God exist.
If only it were that easy for the rest of us.
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga
Rated PG–13, 90 min.