Published Jan 20, 2011By the time this review is published on-line, thousands of gullible moviegoers will already have planned to see this mediocre thriller simply because it stars Sir Anthony Hopkins. Since moviegoers generally forget that Mr. Hopkins hasn't done a good film in a while, those expecting the aging and obviously well-paid thespian to be front and centre in Mikael Håfström's (1408, Derailed) latest film will be sorely disappointed, as he's merely a supporting player in this tale of exorcism, despite what the ads imply.
The Rite follows Michael Kovak, (newcomer Colin O'Donoghue), a young man who after four years of studying to become a priest, decides to resign from seminary school because of his apparent lack of faith. Attempting to change his mind, Father Matthew (Toby Jones) sends Kovak to Rome to study exorcism cases and it's there he meets Father Lucas Trevant, (Hopkins), an unorthodox priest who's performed many exorcisms and is determined to make Kovak believe in God and the Devil via his perilous work.
Very loosely based upon Matt Baglio's book, The Modern Day Exorcist, The Rite sets out to shock and thrill its audience through now-familiar distorted voices, Tourette's bursts of scripture and bone-bending contortions that only mildly entertain, as audiences have seen these watered down jump scenes time and again from January horror releases.
Unsurprisingly, Hopkins' performance possesses so much liveliness that it nearly erases the memory of last year's minimalist, if not superior, The Last Exorcism from any filmgoer's mind. Unfortunately, his over-the-top scenes in the last act, which may be praised by some who might spy a glimmer of Hannibal Lecter in them, garnered the same reaction from this reviewer as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s overwrought, reaching performance in Radio. However, he's hardly to blame for Colin O'Donoghue and new B-list mainstream horror queen Alice Braga, providing very little energy.
After its surprisingly entertaining first half, The Rite loses its initial charm and lustre in its preachy, drawn-out last act despite its beautiful cinematography and showcasing of the great Hopkins. Kudos to Mikael Håfström for somehow getting away with bloody abortions and Hopkins punching out a little girl with a PG-13 rating though. (Warner)