Russell Crowe portrays real life person, Father Gabriel Amorth, who served as an Exorcist to the Pope. But is it worth a trip to the theater?
PLOT: Follow Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s leading exorcist, as he investigates the possession of a child and uncovers a conspiracy the Vatican has tried to keep secret.
REVIEW: One aspect of Exorcism that I feel is never properly addressed is the church’s involvement. So my ears perked up when I heard they were making a film based on Father Gabrielle Amorth, the Pope’s Exorcist. He was always an interesting figure, whether he claiming yoga was satanic or that reading Harry Potter was evil. Maybe eccentric would be a better word. Either way, the idea of a film based on one of his exorcisms is intriguing because of the church’s direct involvement with Amorth. Yet does The Pope’s Exorcist live up to the real man’s reputation? In some ways, yes.
If you’re a fan of exorcism stories, then the one presented here is pretty by the numbers. But that’s not a bad thing. A family moves into an old church, looking to fix it up, only for the youngest son to be possessed. Thankfully the Church sends someone quite well versed in the subject: Father Amorth. Now I can’t say enough good things about Russell Crowe in this film as he seems to be having the time of his life. The man is joking up a storm. His Italian accent can be a little hokey at times but it’s just a joy to see him enjoying the part so much. And as someone that doesn’t speak Italian, I’d say he was pretty damn convincing.
And I’m sure the little Ferrari motorbike that Amorth rides is historical but it got a chuckle out of me anytime he came puttering on screen. In fact, Amorth’s first appearance in The Pope’s Exorcist is actually on the bike, which is I’d say is the proper way to be introduced to such a larger-than-life individual. Really shows you early that the film isn’t trying to take itself too seriously, which is great for an exorcist movie, which can be very heavy-handed. Not that this one doesn’t have its moments.
Unfortunately, the movie does drag a bit when Crowe’s Priest isn’t on the screen. A lot of this has to do with the fact that none of the other characters really get developed much. They’re essentially just a family. In fact, I’d say the daughter Amy is needlessly annoying, and it works against the film. By allowing us to like these kids, it would have been more upsetting when they’re possessed. Though, to be fair, there’s very little fat to be trimmed in the movie because of this. They’re constantly moving at a breakneck pace. And special kudos to young Peter DeSouza-Feighoney who plays the possessed Henry. It’s not an easy role and he nails it. I often forgot there was a child beneath all that demon makeup.
One character that I couldn’t quite pin down was Father Esquibel. When he’s first introduced, he’s a bit of a creep, especially when Julia (Alex Essoe) explains she’s a widow. I also love that they made him a hypocrite, having not confessed his sins for nearly 8 months. But he ends up being someone who Amorth can rely on; even if it takes some prodding. There was even a bit of a tease that Amorth and Esquibel could team up for further adventures. I, for one, am absolutely down for more of Crowe’s Amorth in any and all forms. Hell, throw him in that new Conjuring TV series.
I don’t think it’s exactly a spoiler to say that a demon gets excised in any exorcism film, but I will just say the film really putters out with its ending. They do a great job of setting up this demon as a huge threat, and then he’s taken care of in an instant. I wanted a little more of a struggle. Ultimately The Pope’s Exorcist is going to provide some entertainment but doesn’t approach enough new ground to bring in anyone that’s not already enamored with the genre. But I think those are will really get a kick out of this one.
The Pope’s Exorcist is IN THEATERS APRIL 13th, 2023.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-popes-exorcist-review/