Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material, violence, frightening images, and language including sexual references, 127 minutes
Except for Hopkins, the dull "Rite" is mostly wrong
Sir Anthony Hopkins can do wrong, even in movies that aren't quite right, as is the case with his new thriller "The Rite." Whether playing Hannibal Lecter or C.S. Lewis, he embodies each character he plays with sublime perfection. He does the same in the "The Rite," a dull and hokey horror film that until the film's final minutes, drags instead of thrills. A few jumps along the way don't make for a great film.
Based on the nonfiction novel "The Making of a Modern Exorcist," "The Rite" concerns an American priest named Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) who has become dillusioned with his time in seminary and is questioning his faith. He is sent to study at an exorcism school in Rome, and is paired with an unorthodox Welsh priest Father Lucas (Hopkins) famous for his many exorcisms. While at the school, Michael meets a European journalist (Alice Braga) seeking questions of her own, but the two, along with Father Lucas, come face to face with true evil that will change them all.
"The Rite" is a slick but empty thriller that comes up short on chills and backstory. Without Oscar-winning legendary actor Hopkins on hand, it would've been a total drag. When exorcism/demon movies get it right, which is rarely, it can be genuinely frightening - "The Exorcist," "The Omen" and "Carrie" are prime examples - but when they don't, which is pretty much everything else, it can be as wrong as "The Rite": dreadfully slow and confusing with a few jumps thrown in for good measure.
"The Rite" is problematic in a few areas. First, the direction by Mikael Hafstrom ("1408") doesn't bring out many details of Michael Petroni's (writer of the recent "Narnia" film) vague, murky script with little backstory, especially into Hopkins' vastly underwritten role. It's a tribute to Hopkins' acting prowess that he can generate any interest at all in his character or the film itself for that matter, which is really a thin excuse to turn Hopkins into another evil character. Second, Irish TV actor and relative newcomer O'Donoghue is miscast as Kovak, but his blandness is strikingly amiss anytime he's onscreen with Hopkins, which is most of the movie.
And while "The Rite" is slickly, handsomely produced (and supposedly inspired by a true story), especially with Hopkins on hand, it lacks the genuinely frightening thrills that stick to you like pea soup. It starts off mildly interesting (and watch for a barely recognizable Rutger Hauer in a tiny role as Kovak's father), drags considerably in its mid-section, only to re-energize for an entertaining climax. "The Rite" could've been much more frightening, but it all comes off with a few pops instead of the fireworks it should've been. Hopkins is always worth watching, even in something as dull as "The Rite."