Review in a Hurry: Holy moly, another exorcism movie? Anthony Hopkins plays a priest who schools a seminary student in the ungodly difficult ritual of demon expulsion. Despite a fine cast, The Rite bears the sins of a weak script, with an over-the-top climax that undercuts the bejesus-scaring.
The Bigger Picture: Hollywood keeps trying to recreate the creeparific brilliance of The Exorcist, arguably the scariest horror film ever made (I said arguably!). The Rite, boasting that always-suspicious "inspired by true events" claim, is another in a long line to miss the mark (of the beast).
It even retreads the device of wise old exorcist mentoring the young priest suffering a crisis of faith. Technically, Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) isn't a priest just yet--during his final year, he wants to drop out due to doubt. Faced with a hellish amount of student-loan debt, he agrees to give the Vatican's exorcist-training program a head-spin.
In Rome, Michael challenges his superiors to consider psychological explanations over supernatural ones. So the skeptical pupil is sent to apprentice with unorthodox Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins, lending prestige to this lackluster thriller), who has performed thousands of exorcisms.
Padre Lucas involves him in the case of a possessed, pregnant teenager who shrieks, contorts, and coughs up nails. While these scenes might tingle a few spines, the demon's taunts and antics remain safe enough for a PG-13 rating and so hardly seem Satan-worthy.
Things take a ridiculous turn when Michael starts to hear voices and has visions of frogs and a mule in serious need of Visine. Then Lucas himself becomes possessed, whereupon Hopkins--perhaps the devil or a paycheck made him do it--trades on his Hannibal Lecter persona, with his familiar menacing leer enhanced by CGI.
Most of Rite's wrongs spring from the on-the-nose screenplay, which substitutes chatty, expositional scenes for dramatization--and childhood flashbacks for in-depth character study. It also vainly attempts spiritual significance by interjecting lots of theology-lite discussions about Belief and The Truth. Forever and Ever, Amen.
Save your soul, er, money.
The 180--a Second Opinion: Early in the film, there's a horrific bicycle accident/car crash that's more disturbing than later infernal goings on.