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The Rite Is Exactly Every Exorcism Movie You’ve Ever Seen

The Rite
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
Written by Michael Petroni suggested by a book by Matt Baglio
New Line Cinema, 2011

The Rite is pretty much just another exorcism movie with nothing new to add to the genre, coming just four months after The Last Exorcism offered its unique take.  It’s not a bad movie; it’s better than most flicks that are banished to January.

“Suggested by” a book by Matt Baglio, which might be the loosest of connections a movie gives to its source material, The Rite focuses on would-be priest Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) and his crisis of faith, which leads him to Rome and exorcism class.  After sending his resignation to Father Matthew (Toby Jones), his scholarship for the past few years is threatened, so he is basically forced to go to the Vatican or pay for an education he now realizes he doesn’t want.  He meets Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds) there, a man who teaches the art of exorcism, and also meets a reporter named Angeline (Alice Braga) in the class, who wants to know if it’s all real.  Xavier knows of Kovak’s loss of faith, and sends him to Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), who is one of those masters of exorcism you always hear about.

Trevant’s big case is in a pregnant 16-year-old named Rosaria (Marta Gastini), brought in time to time by her Aunt Andria (Il Postino and The World Is Not Enough’s superbabe Maria Grazia Cucinotta).  This is where Kovak becomes the film’s resident Scully to Trevant’s Mulder, as he witnesses Rosaria changing her voice, and speaking English all of the sudden, and finding power that a girl at 16 doesn’t possess…but there’s still a logical explanation for all the weirdness.  Kovak believes possibly it has something to do with her absentee father, who might also be the father of her unborn child.  Also, Trevant doesn’t help his cause, either, when he makes a house call and uses fraudulent methods.

Of course, if you’ve ever seen an exorcism movie, you know exactly where this is headed.  When Kovak’s father (Rutger Hauer) dies, and a major event involving Rosaria occurs, and, ultimately, the whole reason you might even go to the movie: Trevant looks as though he might be possessed and his only hope is Kovak, he begins to see the light.

Anthony Hopkins is his usual good self, and his line-readings are going to remind you of Silence of the Lambs quite a bit.  The newcomer O’Donoghue doesn’t have much to do; if he becomes a star someday I will completely forget that he was in this movie.  The Rite ultimately just doesn’t have anything you haven’t seen before, even though overall it’s not that bad a flick, it’s just brought down by sameness.

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