THE RITE Review

What's the deal with Exorcism movies lately? It seems though they are fine to get off on the right track and engage us with interesting stories if not characters that get caught up in these ever suspicious rituals of getting rid of demons, they never have the will power to get to a satisfactory conclusion. It is as if they know what they would like the film to contain and how it would begin, but they aren't sure how to wrap everything up once the movie reaches its half way point. And so, like last falls under appreciated "The Last Exorcism", "The Rite" starts off promising enough but crawls toward a conclusion where our doubtful main characters faith is renewed. Nothing wrong with that, but isn't there another route we can take?

In "The Rite" we are treated to a slick and dreary film that focuses on Michael Kovak, a young priest who has no real foundation of faith. He joined the seminary in order to get away from his father. His troubled past is used to fuel the questions he has for and about God. Though we are never really convinced that Michael won't eventually find his faith we also never really believe his circumstances would force him to go to such lengths as becoming a full fledged priest. It is an awkward battle that is never really resolved even as the films climax tries desperately to connect everything as well as justify it. Part of this fault lies in the performance of newcomer Colin O'Donoghue who never seems fully aware of what his circumstances are. He looks empty and the one thing the main character needs here is a little bit of a soul to be toyed with. O'Donoghue doesn't even come through in his finale, where he becomes truly convicted and sounds more like a southern preacher sounding off against the demons than a truly, genuine and authentic man who has realized where his truth is in life. A stronger performer in the lead could have certainly made the overall appeal of this film much stronger.

Where the film doesn't fall short is in its use of Sir Anthony Hopkins talent. Taking his Hannibal Lecterisms and spinning them into a holy man who has had his own doubts and may or may not be possessing his own demons. Hopkins is an old pro and knows what type of film this is and he seems to be having fun by playing it up the best he can. As an expert exorciser Hopkins takes O'Donoghue's character under his wing and more or less tries to convince him there are bigger things going on other than Michael's own internal struggles. It is with an eerie eye we watch Hopkins as he brings the demons out of a young pregnant girl with a sly nod to the bare theatrics of how things really go down. "What did you expect? Spinning heads and pea soup?" He asks early on in the film. And it is with that attitude that "The Rite" attempts to make this a truer to life exorcism movie than any in recent memory.

And though it hammers home the points that these are inspired by true events and that these characters really exist somewhere (and in some form they probably do) it is with a kind of chuckle we watch the over dramatic events take place in front of us. We like to think we are in on the joke with Hopkins, that we know this is all just a but of evil fun, but then he will growl out a few lines and we reconsider for a moment. We get chills when Hopkins gets a look in his eye, and we like the film more than we anticipated, if solely because of his performance. Otherwise, it is too slowly paced and as mentioned before, the story simply cannot withstand its nearly two hour run time. The catholic church has long since proclaimed they hardly do any exorcisms anymore and that they have taken to more scientific and medical explanations for what were once thought to possibly be demonic possessions. This would no doubt make our protagonist happy, but does not sit well with filmmakers who want to scare folks with religion and the evil that comes along with the good. "The Rite" is an honest effort, but a complete fabrication, we should take it for what it is: a popcorn horror flick. Mr. Hopkins would agree, it is written all over his performances cackling face.