The Rite (Movie Review)
The Rite is a competent, though uninspired, modern-day take on The Exorcist. It stars Anthony Hopkins as an aging Jesuit priest named Lucas Trevant who lives in Italy, performing exorcisms on locals who are suspected to be possessed. Relative newcomer Colin O’Donaghue plays Michael Kovak, a young student who has just finished his degree in theology, but has yet to take his vows as a priest due to a last-minute crisis of faith. Kovac is sent to Trevant so that he may see first-hand the work of demons that possess unwitting innocents, and therefore restore his faith in God.
The film is a fairly compelling watch, with a dark tone throughout and some eerie scenes that convey a sense of evil being at work. Both lead actors are very good in their roles. The main problem with the movie (from a critical point of view) is that it suffers by comparison to the film that sets the bar for all films dealing with demonic possession. Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” remains a film that is as disturbing to viewers as it was in 1973. It’s a movie that was unconcerned with breaking taboos at the time, and much of the original content would probably not get past a ratings board today. The Rite exists in the shadow of a film that sucks in everything around it. In the final “possession” scene, when it could have gone for broke in terms of shock value, it kinds of folds. I found it hard to take any of the demonic taunting serious when episodes of The Sopranos have more shock value in the dialogue.
However, don’t let this criticism turn you off seeing the film. It has a lot going well for it in terms of a stand-alone movie. Michael’s crisis-of-faith storyline is quite well done within the context of the main plot arc. I really liked this young actor Colin O’Donaghue, and listening to him debate the nature of evil, or even the existence of God, with church officials made for some entertaining scenes. It’s a movie I think is worth watching, as long as you don’t try to compare it to past masterpieces of the genre.