Unlike the devil himself – who we’re advised minutes into this effective The Exorcist (1973) homage can readily steal the soul of anyone – this latest addition to the subgenre isn’t that unique or skilled that it holds the ability to take anyone’s breath away.
Russell Crowe, on the other hand, playing the film’s Father Merrin of sorts, will completely possess you – with one of his finest, and quite surprisingly funnest performances in recent times.
Based on the real-life adventures – he’s as much a Robert Langdon type, the protagonist in Dan Brown’s religious-skewed, puzzle-box adventure books, as he is an demon demolisher- of Italian catholic priest Gabriele Amorth, The Pope’s Exorcist is a relatively unoriginal and predictable yarn but it’s elevated by a very strong performance by Crowe as well as some terrific visual and physical effects that easily helps hold attention for it’s 103 swift-moving minutes.
Crowe’s take on the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican is played almost tongue-in-cheek, mixing self-assured charm and wit with an ability to go all ‘Oscar clip’ when the moment calls. Here his unrivaled man of the cloth offers up his shrewd and exceptional skills to a family whose youngest member has seemingly been overtaken by Satan. While uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden, Amorth realizes the demon’s plan is as much to destroy this family as it is him.
Australian director Jules Avery, united with no less than five writers, is capable of much better (see Son of a Gun or Overlord!) but The Pope’s Exorcist is still a worthy good time horror yarn that fits nicely on his versatile CV. Ap pic that like The Da Vinci Code meets The Exorcist, it fires on all cylinders when Crowe and co-stars Franco Nero, Alex Essoe and Daniel Zovatto are let loose, same with DP Khalid Mohtaseb and the gifted effects team.