The Rite
dir Mikael Hafstrom
scr Michael Petroni
prd Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson
with Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer, Marta Gastini, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Arianna Veronesi, Andrea Calligari, Chris Marquette, Torrey DeVitto
release US 28.Jan.11, UK 25.Feb.11
11/US NewLine 1h54
The Rite
Are you my father? Hopkins and O'Donoghue

braga hinds jones
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The Rite Even though it's "inspired by true events", this supernatural thriller feels as generic as its title. The casting adds a zing of interest, and the film is efficiently well-made, but we've seen it all before.

Young priest Michael (O'Donoghue) is having a faith crisis when his Father Superior (Jones) sends him to Rome for a crash course in exorcism. There, his professor (Hinds) suggests he hang out with Father Lucas (Hopkins), an unorthodox exorcist treating a pregnant 16-year-old (Gastini) who's apparently carrying the spawn of Satan. Although Michael thinks the weird goings-on are due to the fact that her father raped her. But of course, things start getting very strange, and Michael brings sexy local journalist Angeline (Braga) along to document it.

The presence of expert creep-out actors like Jones, Hinds and Hauer (as Michael's mortician dad) keeps things insinuating and sinister from the beginning, even if none of them are actually playing bad guys. Then in wafts Hopkins, barely breaking a sweat to basically play Lucas as Hannibal Lecter in a cassock. Even so, no one purrs funny-scary dialog like he does. And although we know exactly where this is heading, the journey is packed with freaky jolts and superior gallows humour.

Even with the bland Hollywood production values, director Hafstrom adds some moody, stylish touches. Cliches abound - everyone in Rome apparently paints their walls black and the sound-mix is overloaded with rustles and growls - but he also manages to stir in blackly hilarious touches and far more insinuating glances than were strictly necessary. And he has a solid central perspective in O'Donoghue, who keeps things grounded with a realistic portrayal of a man trying to figure out what he believes. His outbursts of frustration feel genuine, as does the forbidden lust he feels toward Angeline.

But in the end, none of this subtlety matters, and the script sticks to heavily telegraphed plot points to tell a story that's so familiar that it's actually rather dull. Hafstrom responds by shooting much of the film in murky shadows with jarring camera angles and bombastic underscoring. But as it reaches the big climax, we're already thinking about where we want to go for dinner.

cert 15 themes, language, grisliness 17.Feb.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall