Some of the most memorable performances from great actors are also their worst: Lawrence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil, or Marlon Brando hamming it up in Missouri Breaks. Add to that list Anthony Hopkins’s turn as a sinister old Jesuit in the new supernatural horror film The Rite.
The film, which starts glumly before flipping into supernatural camp, follows a handsome young American seminarian named Michael (colourless Colin O’Donoghue) who’s dallying for a couple of months at exorcist school in Rome before leaving the church.
Though raised in a funeral home, Michael’s a red-blooded American dude who has a flirtation with a woman journalist (Alice Braga) who’s auditing his exorcism class.
His professor (Ciaran Hinds) sends him to a tutor, Father Lucas (Hopkins), the Vatican’s oddball, fidgety go-to guy for casting out demons and saving skeptics. But Michael’s a hard nut: Even when a pregnant 16-year-old Italian girl performs contortions, screams obscenities in various languages and coughs up bloody nails, he thinks she’s dealing with repression issues.
Finally, it takes Father Lucas going off the rails to get Michael on the virtuous path. There’s an uproarious scene where (spoiler alert) Father Lucas gets possessed. Shot from below so that his head looks like a large and luminous pumpkin, Hopkins spins through his kooky accent repertoire: A simpering boy, a Valley Girl, a surfer dude and a snooty, effeminate New Yorker.
It has been said the devil’s greatest trick is to make us believe he’s not real; apparently, his second-best trick is his impression of elderly Welshmen impersonating Robin Williams.
- Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
- Written by Michael Petroni
- Starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue
- Classification: 14A