BOX OFFICE REVIEW: The Rite
Anthony Hopkins tries to make exorcisms scary again...
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Having grown up in the church, there are certain ideas I think seem fairly simply to understand. There's good, there's evil, there's right, there's wrong, there's a God, and yes, Virginia, there is a Devil.
Now, while some people might not believe in God - or the Devil - there's no doubt a phenomena the likes of which medicine, psychology and modern science still - to this day - can not explain: demonic possession. Whether you like it or not, there are things in this world that we do not understand and, whether you choose to remain skeptical is your choice, though - having personally witnessed an exorcism when I was 14 years old (and, as they say, "seeing is believing!"), I'm likely to believe that there are indeed otherworldly things that exist that only the holy can battle.
This brings us to the latest in a long line of possession/exorcism movies entitled The Rite. Starring Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas Trevant, the Vatican's most renown exorcist, and TV actor Colin O'Donoghue as Michael Kovak, a skeptical young student on the verge of taking the oath to become a priest, this film, supposedly "inspired by true events," takes us on a somewhat entertaining though sadly disappointing trip down a path that's been trod by much worse actors in much better movies.
The Rite follows Kovak as he struggles with an unknown future and his faith, a journey most of us can relate to. Having grown up in a mortuary (it's the family business) and surrounded by death, Kovak is fairly well insulated to the brutal reality of the end of life. However, upon entering college to study to be a priest as a way of escape, we watch as, instead of his faith growing, his skepticism continues to barrage him. As a sort of test, he's sent to the Vatican to study exorcism and comes face to face with not only his worst fear, but the answers he's been searching for all his life.
While the plot sounds reasonable, as previously stated, The Rite seems like a rehash of something we've seen before...in a better written movie. But you might say "With Anthony Hopkins in the picture, how can it be bad?" Of course, after watching The Rite, you might also say "What's happened to you, Anthony?" Not to say the man has lost his style; in fact, Hopkins performs well, though seemingly in a all too familiar way. Personally, I wasn't sure if Hopkin's was channeling the Devil or his previous role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Of course, Colin O'Donoghue does a solid job of helping carry this film. Previously starring in such TV series as The Clinic and The Tudors, starring opposite Hopkins for your first major film release is quite a chore, one O'Donoghue handles well. Likewise, co-star Alice Braga (who most fans will recognize as Isabella in Predators) helps support O'Donoghue as a reporter auditing the exorcism class at the Vatican. Having had personal experiance with exorcism, Braga's Angeline has some unfinished business with the demonic.
Marta Gastini, the little known actress who plays Rosaria, the young possessed girl being treated by Father Trevant, gives an outstanding performance and delivers on all accounts. Sadly, she seems to perform the best of all the cast.
Overall, The Rite does it's best to do what films like The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Fallen, and The Last Exorcism have done in the past: entertain and scare folks with the enlightening and frightening idea that demons are, in fact, real and that we, as humans, have little defense against them; at least, not without the help of someone with a bit of holy. Sadly, it fails on almost all accounts. The frightening scenes seem forced at times and the dialogue, while truly well written at moments, also gives way to truly ludicrous speech the likes of which I'd never expect in a film with Hopkins at the helm.
While I found myself entertained by The Rite, I also came to see the film arriving too late on the big screen. Considering the number of paranormal and possession films in the last five years alone...well...let's just say this genre is getting almost as old as the "dirty cop"-type film that has polluted the big screen all too often the last few years.
It's not hard to guess how popular The Rite will be with audiences as most fans will simply shake their heads and think back to the good old days of Hannibal Lecter and The Exorcist. I personally recommend picking up any one of the four previously mentioned films as each is a better alternative to The Rite.
Of course, if you're a die-hard fan of exorcism, possession, demons, or ghosts, you'll probably enjoy The Rite for what it is: another mindless possession film about the holy battling the unholy. Though, if you're like me and tired of paying $10 at the box office to see something that's "been there, done that," at least wait the four months for The Rite on Netflix or Redbox.
The Rite is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material, violence, frightening images, and language including sexual references.
- Jess C. Horsley