There are some simple truths in Hollywood: Keanu Reeves can’t emote, Adam Sandler can’t act, and Anthony Hopkins is one of the creepiest human beings alive. The good news is he got to prove his creepiness once again in The Rite. The bad news is he was the only reason to go see the film at all.
The Rite is based on a true story about a young priest named Michael Kovak, played by Colin O’Donoghue. Michael escapes working for his father at the family mortuary to join the priesthood, even though he himself questions the existence of God. Just before graduation he decides to drop out, but is persuaded to try an exorcism training course in Rome instead.
After all, who better to fight demons than someone who doesn’t believe in God?
While in Rome his professor, also sensing his doubting heart, decides to send him on to the town’s resident exorcist, Father Lucas Trevant, played by Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs). Michael also runs into a journalist, played by Alice Braga (Predators), doing a story on the exorcisms and is curious as to how Trevant can pull them off.
The holy water hits the fan when, after Father Lucas and Michael treat several people that are possessed, that they realize that Father Lucas is possessed by the same demon. Demons apparently can transmit like the common cold, but the still doubting Michael has to try and stop it.
As interesting as the plot sounds, the entire movie is bogged down by it. Entire unnecessary scenes are spent showing the opulence of Rome and the beautiful design of the Vatican. While this added a sense of history to Angels and Demons, it just drags out the movie here. There is some vague subplot about how Michael’s parents may have been possessed, but it just fails to deliver.
Other pieces of plot problems come with the demons themselves. Early on a charm bracelet is introduced as some sort of sign of a particular demon, and it keeps popping up in random places. There is also a thing about Michael being able to see a demonic mule, hinting that he may be possessed or something, but both the mule and the bracelet just add to the confusion as to what’s going on.
The really sad part of the movie is Hopkins performance. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s so good. He gets to work his dry sense of humor as the eccentric exorcist, the same way he did as Van Hellsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He also displays his signature creepiness after he gets a demon stuck up his soul, reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs. The problem is that his acting gets bogged down with the rest of the movie in the confusing plot and unexplained demonic occurrences. The climax where he’s tied to a chair and effortlessly switching between priest and demon is Oscar quality, and is almost worth seeing the movie for. Sadly, the rest of the movie didn’t hold up to his level of acting.
The Rite is rated PG-13 because it’s really freaky to see a pregnant woman who is possessed bend like a pretzel at a yoga convention, and because Hopkins scares small children in broad daylight.