THE POPE’S EXORCIST. Priest on the Job [REVIEW]
It is a pity that the makers of The Pope’s Exorcist did not decide to start the film with the sentence that it is “a story based on facts”. Then we would immediately know that we are dealing with an authentic farce. However, Gabriele Amorth (Russell Crowe) really existed and until his death in 2016 he was the Vatican’s exorcist. Good job. Amorth is an authority among the clergy, he has access to the most secret archives of the Holy See, he is sent to particularly difficult cases of possession, he is given unfeigned friendship and unlimited trust by the Pope (Franco Nero). Amorth knows that if someone has problems with him, he lands on the rug of the successor of Saint Peter.
When rumors reach the bishop of Rome about a boy in need of help in a notorious abbey in Spain, he immediately sends his best exorcist there on a mission. His visit is not expected by the teenager’s unbelieving mother or the local priest, Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto). Never mind the plot and, sorry, “the motivations of the characters.” The Pope’s Exorcist is almost entirely an exercise in horror genres. A haunted abbey house, with secret passages, dark dungeons, rooms, in each of which of course there must be a mirror. Did I mention the creaky stairs and the snapshot shots? Yes, there are creaky stairs, there are ominous eyes. The possessed boy is a beast with a deformed, scarred face, a low, guttural voice and a torrent of curses and obscenities with a smile. It’s an all-too-familiar and well-loved image of a demon. The Pope’s exorcist also has a historical-adventure aspect. Part Indiana Jones, part Mummy, with a purple sprinkle that tastes like the Spanish Inquisition.
It would have been much more fun if the director, Julius Avery, hadn’t taken the story so deadly seriously. The pathetic balloon is inflated rather clumsily and in several ways. A family tragedy of a possessed boy and a car accident in which he lost his father. The exorcisms performed are not intended to heal personal wounds, but they are also intended to heal the entire Catholic church: from the little ones to the Vatican decision-makers. Gabriele Amorth is also tormented by demons from her wartime past and remorse after one wrong decision. Unfortunately, the Pope’s exorcist is supposed to be something more than a horror film, but also a spiritual experience and a proposal for meditation. Needless to say, because he can also be a simple-minded bogeyman and take himself a little less seriously.
This lightness and unexpected humor is brought by Amorth. To a lesser extent, thanks to cut retorts and offensive taunts, but thanks to an interesting attitude and non-standard cheerfulness. Crowe’s exorcist is not a brooding gloomy man, but a person who focuses on concreteness and action, without beating around the bush. He approaches every call without any fear, with a plan and a toolbox. Many years of experience have meant that he treats his vocation purely technically and with common sense. He’s a plumber or a mechanic fixing the same breakdown for the hundredth time, not a clergyman wrestling with the supernatural Forces of Darkness.
Unfortunately, most often there are clashes between the intentions of the director and the actor playing the main role. The former consistently delves into C-class cinema with ambitions, and the latter knows that it is really C-class cinema, which is not served by any ambitions. It seems that it was only in the last act that the two managed to reach an understanding. Then it’s really bloody, a demonic puzzle equal to the bizarre proportions of Dan Brown’s prose revelations, skeletons make the best entourage, and suddenly everyone is having a great time. By chance and luck, The Pope’s Exorcist turns out to be a better buddy movie than a satanic horror movie.