Director Julius Avery
Screenplay Michael Petroni, Evan Spiliotopoulos based on An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories by Gabriele Amorth
Starring Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Franco Nero

One may be tempted to believe Russell Crowe as being on the downside of his career. Outside of Marvel and D.C. guest spots, his recent track record has been a selection of films one might consider less challenging or up to the level of his talent. to put it nicely. Unhinged is a strange departure and his second directing effort Poker Face feels more like an experiment than a movie.

The thing about The Pope’s Exorcist is it is the kind of film that would be ludicrous if someone aside from Crowe took on the task of representing the real life Father Gabriele Amorth. Being the dedicated actor he is, Crowe decided to research the prolific Catholic demon fighter in order to present the viewer with somewhat an anomaly in the world of cinema: a priest who is humble and sincere in his efforts of helping people.

The story is not particularly deep, as it goes. After an initial experience of revealing a supposed possessed young man as just being delusional. we get to the main thrust. A mother (Essoe) and her two children move into Sebastian Abbey in Spain after the residence is left to them upon her husband’s (and their father’s) death in a tragic accident. The son, Henry, was present during the accident and has been silent since. Construction on the abbey opens a doorway which leads to Henry’s possession by a powerful demon. The first young priest, Father Esquibel (Zovatto), who attempts to intervene is thrown violently from the room as the demon demands to be sent a real priest. Enter Crowe’s Amorth, puttering all the way from Rome on a tiny scooter.

Being unfamiliar, but curious about the work of Amorth, I have no idea whether Sebastian Abbey’s story is based on anything documented in his books. I am in the process of reading them now, but it would be kind of interesting if there is anything at all close to a true experience.

The film hits familiar beats from this point, but Crowe, everso comfortable in his own skin, helps to ground proceedings with things that an actual man of God might well do.and say. When he asks the young priest if he has read any of Amorth’s writings, Esquibel says he’s read some of his pamphlets, Amorth responds dryly, “The books are good.”

He also tells some innoncent jokes, to the family, to the young priest, and even to the demon, who responds with rage. Demons don’t like humor, he intones. These personal touches, along with Crowe’s indelible mastery of Italian, Latin and Spanish language make his portrayal pop off the screen.

Good thing. If not for Crowe’s performance, this film is considerably unerwhelming. The segues are awkward, the effects border on Looney Tunes and the bombast of the fireworks of the last act make the story crash to a halt. It’s not that anything is terrible, but this is an example of the type of film with an ending is just pushed down the viewer’s throat so we can just prepare for a possible sequel.

If they spend more time developing his counterpart, or allow Crowe room to breathe more life into a character he so obviously adores, future films might be worth watching.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s