The Rite (Rated R) 4 Stars
Honestly, The Rite (112 minutes) looked pretty boring. One more exorcist horror-drama, and I’m not even that huge of a fan of the genre, The Last Exorcism notwithstanding. Admittedly the presence of one Sir Anthony Hopkins drew my attention, but be warned … he doesn’t show up until almost halfway through the film.
Little Michael Kovak (Colin Donoghue) experiences some borderline mental abuse while attempting to overcome his Oedipal complex. In a scene repeated approximately 20 times throughout the course of the movie his father (Rutger Hauer) lovingly paints the nails of his dead wife while whispering sweet nothings into her … nose? I think? This is a formative experience for Michael, since he evidently thinks about it whenever he touches dead bodies. Which he does a lot, because he is a mortician.
In an effort to make his own way in the world and discover what life has to offer other than girls who give him free beer, Michael decides to explore the vast unending possibilities open to a young man of his character and, ahem, vigor. Since an ancient family curse apparently dooms him to be a mortician or a priest, and working as a mortician for his creepy father isn’t working out, Michael checks out the priesthood.
Fastforward. Despite the fact that Michael apparently had no real interest in the priesthood, he made it through four years at seminary. Then flunked the final exam in theology. Then wrote Priest Hey! It’s That Guy! (Toby Jones) a lame letter of resignation. Which we get to see in extreme close-up for some unknown reason. Priest Hey! It’s That Guy! refuses the letter and blackmails Michael (as priests are oft wont to do) into traveling to Rome to take a class on exorcism.
He arrives late to his first class, and he’s all like, Sorry Priest Dude. And the teacher, Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds), is all like, “I prefer punctuality to apologies,” which is both mean and awesome. Angelina (Alice Braga, professional voice of reason) notices that Michael is devoted to irritating Father Xavier, and further notices that Father Xavier is sending him to see a practicing exorcist. She insinuates herself into his good graces, and follows him around for the rest of the movie.
The practicing exorcist is Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins, channeling Dr. Van Helsing and Dr. Hannibal Lector). He lives with a bunch of cats and is currently focused on exorcising a pregnant 16-yearold girl. Here is where the movie starts to get ambiguous and cool, with subtly disturbing sound effects and close-ups on gross rashes and hair loss. Father Lucas is unable to break through Michael’s skepticism, even after the girl does some totally weird psychic-type stuff. Despite the assistance of Michael the untrained faithless skeptic, the girl continues to worsen. She eventually ends up in the hospital/roach motel.
Wracked with guilt, Father Lucas wanders around semi-nude, slapping small children. Basically, sucking as an exorcist turns him into a total jerk, in a sort of if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them moment. Up until that point, this was film of ideas. As the climax approaches, this is less a film about what you believe and more a film about demons possessing the innocent, which isn’t nearly as interesting, but wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be.