The Rite is likely to disappoint horror enthusiasts looking for a good scare during the winter months. It’s not a horror-thriller in the vein of The Exorcist, it’s a religious drama with horror trappings. Colin O’Donaghue stars as Michael, a young man low on faith who nevertheless attends seminary school because his only other career option is the family mortuary business. Just as he’s about to drop out after four years of free education, he’s convinced to spend two months in Rome under the tutelage of an unorthodox exorcist, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins).
Once under Lucas’ wing, Michael is quickly exposed to the particulars of demonic possessions and ridding the world of them, beginning with a pregnant Italian teenager. Director Mikael Hafstrom avoids spinning heads and pea-green barf, but there’s little else to fill the void in terms of shock — or even schlock.
Hopkin’s is given the jucier role as Lucas, which allows him a plethora of quirks, mannerisms, voices, and assorted flamboyant acting business to explore, especially when his character falls prey to satanic forces. Of all involved, he alone seems to be enjoying himself (and that’s including the audnece). His character is denied a backstory, however, and that combined with O’Donoghue’s bland, wooden performance results in a sadly uninvolving movie. The supporting cast — which includes Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer, Alice Braga, and Ciaran Hinds — is fine, but no one is able to rescue The Rite from the cardinal sin of film — that of being damnably dull.
Simon West’s remake of the The Mechanic is more successful, if only because it never tries to deliver more than cheap thrills via a hail of bullets and lots of stuff going kerblooey.
The premise sticks fairly close to that of the original 1972 Charles Bronson/Jan-Michael Vincent cult classic about an obsessively efficient hitman who takes a troublesome young protege under his wing, with variations in the details. Quientessential B-movie tough guy Jason Statham steps into the role as contract killerArthur Bishop, whose latest assignment is his best friend and mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland), who seems to have betrayed their employers. After the hit, Bishop encounters Harry’s wayward son, Steve (Ben Foster), and — thanks to the winning combo of guilt and compassion — begins to channel Steve’s self-destructive tendencies toward the fine art of assassination.
There’s nothing new here, and it all plays out the way you’d expect, but it at least does well. West, who used to waste our time with such noisy, irritating,and overblown spectacles such as Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, has finally learned to turned down the volume and deliver the sort of noisy, indulgent, well-crafted spectacle that makes for a good action flick. Statham is, well, Statham — all stubbly and broody and badass — and his pairing with the underappreciated Foster (who artfully and memorably stole some show from Russell Crowe AND Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma) is an inspired one. In a perennially slow time of year at the box office, the deliver something that at least helps pass the time until Spring.