The Pope’s Exorcist movie review (2023)
Russell Crowe Shines as Father Gabriele Amorth
“The Pope’s Exorcist” introduces Russell Crowe as Father Gabriele Amorth, a theologian, journalist, book author, and the pope’s designated exorcist. Crowe’s portrayal of Amorth is a standout performance that captures the character’s sly, tough, and wisecracking nature.
With his gunslinger-like approach to each exorcism mission, Crowe’s Amorth carries an exorcism kit filled with crucifixes and holy water, resembling a saddlebag. Despite his mismatched scooter, which adds a touch of humor, Crowe’s charismatic presence creates a wonderful sight gag.
A Unique Blend of Western and Exorcism Elements
The film takes audiences on a journey with Amorth to a decaying abbey in rural Spain, where he aims to drive a demon from a young boy. While marketed as a horror film, it leans more towards theological action than pure creepiness and terror.
The movie expertly cross-cuts between the action at the abbey and the Vatican, where Franco Nero portrays a Pope aware of the situation’s gravity. Blending Western elements with exorcism themes, the film presents Amorth as an aging gunslinger teaming up with a younger partner, Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto), to protect innocent lives from a monstrous adversary.
Crowe’s Dry Wit and Engaging Portrayal Elevate the Film
Alex Essoe co-stars as Julia, a widowed mother of two, who inherited the abbey and hopes to sell it to resolve family debts. Laurel Marsden portrays Julia’s rebellious daughter, Amy, while Peter DeSouza-Feighoney takes on the role of her 12-year-old son, Henry, who becomes a vessel for supernatural evil.
Although the film relies on familiar exorcism cliches, its standout feature remains Russell Crowe’s performance. Crowe’s Amorth is a prideful cut-up, responding to vile taunts with a deadpan smirk and snappy comebacks.
Even in the face of growling demons, Amorth’s worst nightmare remains France winning the World Cup, showcasing Crowe’s skillful delivery of dry, needling wit. The actor effortlessly balances the character’s confident.
A Convincing Opening Scene Sets High Expectations
“The Pope’s Exorcist” kicks off with a captivating and original opening sequence that immediately grabs the audience’s attention.
In this scene, Father Gabriele Amorth confronts a demonic entity in a preliminary exorcism, using his clever and trash-talking approach to goad the evil presence into defeating itself.This sequence showcases Amorth’s unconventional methods and establishes him as a unique and potentially franchise-worthy character.
It hints at a rare blend of theological expertise and charisma, reminiscent of James Bond or a theological version of Detective Columbo. The scene is engaging enough to raise hopes for an exceptional and original film experience, leaving viewers eagerly anticipating what is to come.
Missed Opportunities and Familiar Exorcism Tropes
While “The Pope’s Exorcist” promises a fresh take on the exorcism genre, it ultimately falls short of delivering a truly exceptional cinematic experience. The film frequently relies on familiar exorcism movie cliches, resulting in a lack of innovation and originality.
The plot takes detours into a Vatican conspiracy storyline, which has drawn comparisons to Dan Brown’s novels but fails to make a strong and cohesive connection with the church’s historical atrocities and scandals. The convoluted and ridiculous resolution of the conspiracy plot serves as a letdown, seemingly absolving the Church from its dark history by blaming the devil.
This narrative choice undermines the potential for deeper exploration of the Church’s complexities and its responsibility for past misdeeds. The film’s inability to capitalize on these opportunities dampens its impact and prevents it from rising above the average exorcism movie fare.
The Vatican Conspiracy Plot and Its Disappointing Resolution
“The Pope’s Exorcist” ventures into a Vatican conspiracy plot that adds an extra layer of intrigue to the narrative. However, this subplot fails to reach its full potential and falls short in execution. Drawing loose connections to church atrocities and scandals, the storyline attempts to create a sense of depth and complexity.
Unfortunately, the resolution of this conspiracy plot is convoluted and ridiculous, leaving viewers unsatisfied. By attributing the Church’s misdeeds to the influence of the devil, the film seems to absolve the institution of its responsibility, simplifying a nuanced and historically significant issue.
This resolution undermines the film’s opportunity to address the darker aspects of the Church’s past and explore the complex relationship between faith and wrongdoing. As a result, the Vatican conspiracy plot feels half-hearted and fails to provide the thought-provoking exploration it promises.
Crowe’s Performance Makes the Film Worth Watching
Despite the film’s shortcomings, Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Father Gabriele Amorth elevates “The Pope’s Exorcist” and makes it worth watching. Crowe’s portrayal of Amorth is a testament to his talent as an actor. He effortlessly embodies the character’s dry wit, prideful nature, and unconventional methods.
Crowe’s deadpan delivery and snappy comebacks add a layer of humor to the film, keeping the audience engaged and entertained. Even in moments of vulnerability, Crowe shines, showcasing Amorth’s hidden insecurities and struggles.
His performance strikes a delicate balance between lightheartedness and seriousness, making Amorth a captivating and memorable character.
Crowe’s undeniable charm and his ability to bring depth to even the most ordinary scenes ensure that audiences will find themselves rewatching the film just to savor his exceptional performance. His presence alone provides a compelling reason to give “The Pope’s Exorcist” a chance, despite its narrative flaws.
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