Don’t Let the Rite One In
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue
Review by Robert Patrick
When I first heard the name of director Mikael Håfström’s newest film, entitled “The Rite”, I immediately thought it was a sequel to “The Skulls” with Joshua Jackson. I was, of course, wrong. Håfström’s film revolves around a young priest, named Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), who, because of his young adult life, is in doubt about the existence of a greater being. As with most protagonists who dwell in uncertainty, Kovak is hurdled into a situation that tests his character – I’m looking at you, “Signs” with Mel Gibson.
Kovak is selected to be the apprentice to Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), a exorcist that says so many one-liners his tongue may as well be a Shakespearean quill pen. Kovak, under the tutelage of the Vatican appointed Lucas, waltzes around Rome while attempting to empty human vessels of their demonic contents. Most of the film takes place attempting to solve the mysteries around two apparent demonic possessions. Kovak doubts the merit of Father Lucas, questions the existence of the devil, and then attempts to explain to himself that these alleged cases of satanic manifest destiny are simply sick people with psychological issues. The pot boils over, however, when Father Lucas himself is possessed (no spoilers here, you saw the trailer).
Håfström’s film isn’t necessarily awful, but it’s always a bit off, like a guitar that hasn’t been tuned properly. There are dramatic sequences that make for good campfire fanning, but most of the film feels sluggish and uninspired. Hopkins’ performance is, at the very least, entertaining to watch – even if he does look like he is channeling John Cleese when he is portraying a possessed man. All of the writhing, face twitching, tongue lolling looks like awkward shtick from Jim Carrey. No matter. It is quite fun to see Hopkins launch into a kind of unhinged fury; his words are crashing off of each other like bumpercars during some of the film’s more frantic moments. This sort of wily, unharnessed behavior makes me forgive him for last year’s dreary “Wolfman”.
With most of the film containing the same sequences of exorcism, only in slightly different variations, it begins to feel stale quickly. It’s almost like listening to the remix of a song that you already know on repeat. You know there’s an exorcism. You know that someone will pray. Rinse, repeat. The movie, I will admit, is better than “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”. Take what you will from that statement.
Though Hopkins is entertaining, the screenplay is not. You have to ask yourself whether or not you would go to a horrible party to see one entertaining guest. Håfström didn’t do a terrible job on “The Rite”, but it’s one of those films that doesn’t necessarily need to be made, watched, or discussed at great length (I have unfortunately already done two of these three). It also needs to be said that there is a predictable love story buried here. It’s reminiscent of a murder weapon: you know it’s stashed away somewhere, and it’s likely to be found, but you hope it doesn’t turn up. “The Rite” is predictable pap that has a top shelf actor. Nothing more, nothing less.