Deliver Us From Evil – 2014

Director Scott Derrickson
Starring Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris, Joel McHale
Screenplay by Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman

 Scott Derrickson has a way of making things seem really bad. Not just movie bad, but real, we’re not gonna make it bad. Sinister was replete with all sorts of things we’d all seen before, but there were a few, very vital things that made it stand apart. This time around, he relies on the intensity of Eric Bana in a good performance as Sargent Ralph Sarchie, a New York cop who has an instinct for the big calls. He is full of New York moxie and brutish intellect, working alongside another hot head named Butler (McHale, expanding his range just a bit). He loves his wife and kid almost as much as he loves his job, and church, well, he does that once a year.

Going on a gut feeling, Ralph gets himself and Butler into a series of inter-related cases that have him crossing paths with Father Mendoza (Ramirez).  Father Mendoza is a member of Narcotics Anonymous, and he specializes in demon possession. He tries to convince Sarchie that this is what he is seeing in this string of cases is exactly that. Sarchie needs convincing, of course.

The cases all revolve around a trio of servicemen who were dishonorably discharged after attacking a chaplain. We don’t see the attack but we do get to see what likely inspired the attack. Serving in Iraq, they came across a spooky looking cave and their commander sent them in. Too bad for them. It’s interesting that they take this route when explaining the origin of the demon that takes them over. Iraq is an old part of the world and we’ve been there a lot lately.

That they don’t explore this aspect more is a bit of a bummer.The film is “inspired” by tales that presumably occurred to the real Sarchie from his 2001 book Beware the Night. The retired cop who later became a demonologist, probably dealt with Iraqi veterans of the Desert Storm variety. Either way, we don’t find out much about the demon, other than its name. That the film is about as curious as George W. Bush is a missed opportunity. The exorcism is about as routine as a police procedural held, ironically, in an interrogation room.

Some unique moments in the film, especially during the chase scene in the apartment stairway and basement and lion pit at the zoo. Bana, McHale and Munn help us forget that we are seeing some pretty average stuff. Ramírez’ take as a priest is different enough to keep us from wondering why he hasn’t been defrocked.

It’s conceivable that most people will enjoy this film, if not become enmeshed with it.There are fewer moments that grab one while watching Deliver Us From Evil, but with only the strength of his earlier film he is worthy of taking on Dr. Strange.

(*** out of *****)

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