Based on the book The Making of a Modern Exorcist, The Rite once again sees Anthony Hopkins in “personification of evil” mode, but just for a few minutes. Otherwise he’s Father Lucas, a veteran priest and expert in exorcism, who leads his student, Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), a new priest with a crisis-of-faith, into a wild satanic showdown.
Richard Crouse: Mark, if there was an after-school special about exorcism, The Rite would be it. It's earnest, has a message and there’s even a teenage pregnancy angle. I just wish it was scarier. It’s freaky but could really use a few more pea soup and head spinning scenes.
Mark Breslin: A few months ago, Hollywood gave us a movie called The Last Exorcism. Aww, come on, they promised! Really, Richard—I found The Rite to be a well directed, well acted piece of hooey. If you're a non-beleiver, there is nothing in this movie to scare you. You know what's scary? The Company Men—people losing their jobs for no good reason. To me, that's the horror film of the year.
RC: Even if you are a believer there’s not much there to scare you. Exorcism movies like this need lots of pea soup and head spinning. Instead we a get a demon mule with red eyes. Seriously? It’s freaky but not scary. Luckily, Anthony Hopkins brings some, ahem, spirit to the proceedings. But is he too much? What did you think?
MB: Hopkins can never do wrong in my book. He is wonderfully entertaining, especially in the second half of the picture when he goes off the deep end. He's one of the two things I liked about the movie, the other being the actual exorcism scenes, which had a genuine intensity to them. And were there any other actors in the film that even registered for you?
RC: In a word, no. I found most of the other actors rather bland. Even Rutger “Hobo with a Shotgun” Hauer, who can usually be counted on to add a dash or two of crazy is unusually subdued and Ciarán Hinds, usually a majestic figure on film, fades into the background. There’s no question, it’s Hopkins' movie, but I sometimes felt he was acting in a different movie than everyone else.
MB: And the movie, though not poorly made, seemed beneath Hopkins' usual high standards. In fact, even by the generally low bar that's set for exorcism movies, I thought The Rite was just... Rong.
RC: Yeah, I have very little sympathy for this devil as well. I tried to imagine the movie without Hopkins—for better and for worse—and when I did there wasn’t anything left. He really exercises his exorcisms here and that’s the only real reason to see the movie.