About a Christian scholar who never really believed in God, after enrolling in seminary school Michael’s (O’Donoghue) plans were simple, abdicate his vows and revel is what has become a free college degree. However, when he’s forced to act up on religious duties on the street, he impresses his priest, who in tern requests he takes a class on exorcism in Rome, and become a priest himself. With the offer of a levied $100k student loan upon its completion, even if he still wants to leave the church, Michael accepts, only what’s in waiting, might just be too much other-wordly proof for even the most skeptical of believers.
Shadowing Father Lucas (Hopkins) as he treats a possessed pregnant 16-year-old, all doesn’t go according toplan, and soon, the priest himself takes a turn for the worst. With no other option, and against all his doubts, Michael must don the cloth himself, and attempt to rid his tutor of demons he had never expected to face, never mind believe in.
While enjoyable in part, The Rite never feel never like it even attempts to step out beyond mediocrity. While the production values are everything out of Hollywood, there’s nothing in the script, acting nor direction to give the film its own identity and pulse.
Already stuttering in his English language career, this is another largely forgettable effort from Mikael Håfström, who might just have run out of shots, after similar studio films Derailed and 1408, each promising, but also failed to really excite. Everything in his films is handled amicably, but no passion, character or style comes through, it seems he’s more of a ‘hand for hire’ director, than one of thoughts and creativity, and with so many truly talented filmmakers waiting in the wings, at this rate, his days are more than numbered.
Playing the focal priest, Hopkins is solid in a clichéd role, though especially when possessed, it’s more of an auto-pilot performance, and reminiscent of Hannibal lecture-lite; he’s a little ridiculous, but certainly not ridiculous enough to be sublime.
Alongside the cinematic legend, lead Colin O’Donoghue is thoroughly overwhelmed, and not nearly commanding enough to drive the film forward, which when the running time comes in a whisker under two hours, leaves The Rite feeling bloated. While the cutting room floor did leave for a fair few creepy moment, and some what sustained sense of fear and dream, the film could have been put together in a much snappier way, with a hugely convoluted opening certainly not helping The Rite’s uneven pace.