By Owen Gleiberman
Updated February 04, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST
The Rite | MAN OF GOD Anthony Hopkins carries the cross in The Rite
Credit: Egon Endrenyi

The Rite

  • Movie

When Anthony Hopkins signs on to play a sinister old exorcist in a generic satanic rehash like The Rite, does he hate himself for getting hired, yet again, to trot out Hannibal Lecter’s ravenous snarl and hypnotist’s gleam? Does he stalk around between takes muttering things like ”I should be doing Lear”? Or is he only too happy to milk that Lecter leer? The Rite is set in Rome, and it presents the Vatican as having officially embraced the rituals of exorcism as a de facto enhancement of its brand. (If the devil is at large, then the church must still be relevant.)

Hopkins becomes the tutor of a young priest (Colin O’Donoghue) too skeptical to believe the gnashings and writhings of the ”possessed” are anything but psychological symptoms. The trouble is, the film seems to think that this amounts to a serious crisis of faith. The hero is a cipher; who cares if he’s saved from his skepticism? When he and Hopkins team up to expunge a demon from a pregnant Italian teenager, there’s no shock in her tongue flickerings and Latinate rantings. ”Were you expecting swiveled heads and pea soup?” asks Hopkins. Maybe not, but we were expecting something we hadn’t seen a dozen times in the recent cycle of exorcist thrillers. The Rite commits the supreme sin of making the devil dull. D

The Rite

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 112 minutes
  • Mikael Hafstrom