The Rite | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Rite

In which the devil attacks Sir Anthony Hopkins!

This baroque, yet surprisingly dull, melodrama dares to tackle, with fake sincerity, the Catholic rite of exorcism. And thus, by obvious extension, the presence of the devil among us, within us!

Our stand-in, a questioning young American (Colin O'Donoghue) is sent to Rome to take an exorcism class. He's skeptical until he starts tagging along with Rome's Best Exorcist, the slightly loopy Father Trevant (Anthony Hopkins).

Besides a lot of clatter about believing this or that, and dozens of close-ups of Old World crucifixes, director Mikael Hafstrom gives the audiences two big doses of devil-removal: one involving a pregnant teen-age girl, and the other spotlighting a certain well-regarded actor. It's the usual writhing and howling we expect from the possessed, plus something new: the vomiting of crucifix nails!

But never mind that: A demon can be defeated only when it reveals its name. This "rule" is never fully explained -- perhaps the Vatican still wants to sell the class? -- so scenes of priests screaming at the possessed, "Tell me your name!" are mystifying. (If I'm a fully engaged evil entity, why would I?) 

I can tell you which demon finally possesses Father Trevant: It's Hannibal Lecter! Hopkins hasn't had this much fun cycling through good-bad-good-more-bad in years. The Rite is less junky than you'd expect but still not very good. Hopkins may not save the possessed, and he just barely salvages this film. In English, hellspeak and Italian, with subtitles.