The Rite (2011)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Genres: Religious Horror, Supernatural Thriller, Thriller
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Mikael Hfstrm Mikael Hfstrm
Anthony Hopkins Anthony Hopkins
Colin O'Donoghue Colin O'Donoghue
Alice Braga Alice Braga
Ciarn Hinds Ciarn Hinds
Toby Jones Toby Jones

5.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: February 01, 2011
American cinemas get saddled with at least one exorcism film per year and have for a long time. Last year it was "The Last Exorcism". The year before was "The Unborn". And who could forget "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" from a few years back? The genre has been done to death and none of them seem to come close to grasping the same sense of horror and shock as "The Exorcist" did. "The Last Exorcism" was the most original to come around in a long time but it was an exorcism film of a different type, so that's not a fair comparison. "The Rite" is also a 'different' kind of exorcism film in that is actually a character study of one man with the backdrop of the whole exorcism ritual. And, when the film concerns itself with that character -- it really works. Towards the end of the film "The Rite" falls pray to a last act deluge of pop and flash that cheapens the previous ninety minutes. It doesn't make them unwatchable or even bad -- just not as memorable as they should have been.

The film stars Colin O'Donaghue as Michael Kovak. Michael lives and works with his father (Rutger Hauer) at their family-run funeral home. Michael is involved in every aspect of the family business but does not want to end up like his father. He says, at one point, his family has either been morticians or priests. He chooses the latter. He begins taking classes to join the priesthood as a way to escape his life and never really plans on following through and actually becoming a priest. This is disappointing news to Father Matthew (Toby Jones) who believes in Michael's potential. He blackmails Michael into traveling to Rome for two-months to study the rite of exorcism under Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds). Michael does so and is quickly sent to Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), an unconventional sort of priest who has performed numerous exorcisms. Michael is a skeptic and Father Lucas tries his best to make him understand and believe.

This is where the film loses you. The film works with O'Donaghue and Hopkins playing off one another -- one of them a staunch believer in exorcisms and the other a seemingly incurable skeptic. Then the filmmaker makes the mistake of possessing the Anthony Hopkins character. The idea might seem fine on paper but the film does not do that storyline service. We, instead, get Anthony Hopkins acting as insane as possible with crazy voices and creepy glances and over-the-top gestures that border on the ridiculous. Audiences love Anthony Hopkins and they always like to see him go psycho but we've seen it before. It's nothing new. He pulls no new tricks out of his bag and even shows us that he doesn't possess those same kinds of Hannibal-esque eccentrics that he once did. It's like watching a master actor stymied with stereotype. Hopkins deserves better than that. Colin O'Donaghue, a newcomer who delivers a terrific performance, deserved better than that.

I am an admirer of director Mikael Hafstrom. His film "Evil" from a few years back was terrific and one of the best films of that year. "1408" was one of the best horror films of recent years because it was the first near bloodless horror film I had seen in a while that really delivered. He knows how to make a frightening sequence and there are definitely a couple of those in "The Rite". He does do a fine job of not making the scenes look too CGI-heavy. But most of the horror is lost at the end because Hopkins is being too near comical with his performance. And there's no real threat because we know Hopkins' character isn't going to die -- he's going to be cured of his possession. And poor Alice Braga just standing there because evidently the writer felt there just had to be a woman in there somewhere or the world would end. I love strong female characters as long as they make sense. Her character didn't make any sense at all.

So, do I recommend "The Rite". I do. I think the film is interesting and entertaining enough to work for most people though I felt the ending cheapened the film as a whole. 6.5/10.
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