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The Rite: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Rite (2011) movie poster The Rite

Theatrical Release: January 28, 2011 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Mikael Hๅfstr๖m / Writers: Michael Petroni (screenplay), Matt Baglio (suggested by book)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins (Father Lucas Trevant), Colin O'Donoghue (Michael Kovak), Alice Braga (Angeline), Ciarแn Hinds (Father Xavier), Toby Jones (Father Matthew), Rutger Hauer (Istvan Kovak), Marta Gastini (Rosaria), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Aunt Andria), Arianna Veronesi (Francesca), Andrea Calligari (Vincenzo), Chris Marquette (Eddie), Torrey DeVitto (Nina), Ben Cheetham (Young Michael), Marija Karan (Sandra)

The Rite available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download 5/17!
Buy The Rite from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD • Blu-ray • Instant Video


The Rite is Hollywood's newest exorcism movie, determined to get cinematic thrills
out of the fact that many of the world's leading religions believe in and employ the controversial practice. Billed as a "supernatural thriller", this one emphasizes its real world origins with the claim that it is "inspired by true events."

The film opens with Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), a young Catholic man expected to inherit his father's mortuary business, deciding instead to enter the priesthood. Near the end of his four years of seminary training, Michael is plagued by doubt and convinced he's not fit for the cloth. When his advisor Father Matthew (Toby Jones) points out that under the law, a seminary dropout's free education can be converted to around $100,000 in student loans, Michael considers the priest's alternative proposal, agreeing to spend two months in Rome being schooled in exorcisms.

Father Matthew (Toby Jones) gives priest-in-training Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) reason to reconsider his resignation.

In Rome wearing his skepticism on his sleeve, the young seminarian is referred to Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), a Welsh Jesuit priest renowned for his unorthodox and apparently effective methods. Witnessing Fr. Lucas in action does not immediately restore Michael's faith. He thinks exorcism is a dramatic spectacle doing nothing for the real psychological problems at the root of the disturbances.

Teaming up with a journalist enrolled in the same class (Alice Braga), Michael finds his view complicating, as Fr. Lucas treats a pregnant teenager (Marta Gastini) supposedly possessed by the Devil. She convulses and talks in languages she doesn't know, with Fr. Lucas at his best providing temporary pacification. And she's not the only one.

Legendary Welsh Jesuit exorcist Fr. Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins) welcomes Michael to his Roman abode.

Helmed by Mikael Hๅfstr๖m, the Swedish director whose American credits include 1408 and Derailed, The Rite gets off to a decent start as it establishes the Catholic Church's position on exorcism and mines the atmosphere of its American-in-Rome premise. There are very few actors besides Anthony Hopkins who would feel as right for his authoritative role. Unfortunately, the setup and that appropriate casting can only do so much.

The Rite soon loses its way, burdened by the fact that its possession scenes are not frightening or harrowing. Ones coming later in the film are almost comical in their absurdity.
There are no worthwhile subplots to divert attention from this critical failing, so much of The Rite's second hour goes down as ineffective and dull.

That can't be a huge surprise because The Rite was released in January, a month the industry treats as a last refuge for movies with limited prospects. Fare like this can be considered counterprogramming for those who have already caught or passed on all of the commercial Christmastime fare and Oscar-bound dramas. The timing seemed to work in The Rite's favor because it opened at #1, with a respectable (by this year's standards, anyway) $14.8 million first weekend. Scorched by critics, the movie didn't get a much better word-of-mouth reaction, with sharp declines only taking it just over the $33 M mark domestically ($4 M shy of its production budget). The film fared stronger in international markets, where it was rolled out in February through April and has grossed an additional $63 M, for a near-$100 M worldwide total.

One of few releases by the increasingly depleted New Line Cinema, just an arm of Warner Bros. Pictures the past three years, The Rite comes to home video, on demand, and download on Tuesday. On the physical medium front, the film takes Warner's now standard three-pronged approach, being made available in a single-disc DVD, a single-disc Blu-ray, and a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy. We look at the combo pack here.

The Rite Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 5.1 MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-Only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP), Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP)
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Rite boasts excellent picture quality in the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 widescreen transfer. The visuals are dark, but nuanced, plus sharpness and detail impress. Both the movie and its 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack are slightly cheapened by the use of jump-in-seat moments. Otherwise, the latter mix does a good job of conveying low-key atmosphere, with the wealth of foreign dialogue translated in clean player-generated subtitles.

Though the movie runs close to two hours and the DVD devotes almost half of its data to digital copies, the standard definition presentation isn't bad. The picture quality lacks Blu-ray's clarity, but the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack has a good amount of impact. The French and Spanish dubs of the individual DVD are dropped here.

Fr. Gary Thomas, the Saratoga, California priest and diocesan exorcist on whom Anthony Hopkins' character is based, talks briefly about the film in "The Rite: Soldier of God." Michael hops off a bus and goes exploring only to find some earthly activity in this deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

On Blu-ray, The Rite is joined by three bonus features, two of which are exclusive to it.

First up, "The Rite: Soldier of God" (6:40) is a short but good featurette that is less about the film and more about the Vatican's real exorcism class attended by Matt Baglio, the journalist whose book "suggested" the film and who acted as consultant on the production.

Next, we get a brief alternate ending (1:40) that changes one detail of the film's actual conclusion for horror movie effect. It's hardly chilling enough to be called that on both the film's slipcover and case art, seemingly designed to point out it's only available on Blu-ray.

Finally, the one feature available both on Blu-ray and on the standalone DVD is a collection of five deleted scenes (12:39). These are suitably atmospheric and include two additional appearances by Michael's undertaker father (Rutger Hauer), but they're not eventful enough to change the movie or regret missing. The HD footage suffers from blurry motion and one quiet exchange (at least it's subtitled).

There is also a BD-Live section promising a 4-minute preview of Green Lantern and looks at A Clockwork Orange's upcoming Blu-ray bonus features, but I gave up after four attempts to access the material frustratingly froze my player at different points of the loading process.

Customary for Warner's combo packs, the DVD in the set contains no trailers or extras, beyond the redeemable digital copy files.

The Blu-ray opens with a promo for Blu-ray and a trailer for Green Lantern.

The Blu-ray's menu takes Warner's usual approach of static poster art and upward-expanding listings, though strangely only one of the extras is accompanied by a runtime and picture (even the deleted scenes are not individually accessible). The DVD's menu uses the same image and score.

The two discs are packaged in a standard slim Blu-ray case and topped by a sleek slipcover that alone makes references to the DVD/digital copy combo disc. Inserts decode/defend BD-Live and instruct digital copy redemption with your unique code.

Marta Gastini plays Rosaria, the pregnant Italian teenager whose exorcism attempts prove eye-opening for Michael. This flashback shows the disturbing mortuary existence in which Michael (Ben Cheetham) spent his youth with his father (Rutger Hauer).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's nice to see a mainstream movie without disdain for religion, but that is about the extent of The Rite's modest achievement. Despite a promising start, this exorcism thriller comes apart without scaring or even keeping you interested. Warner's Blu-ray combo pack delivers a high quality feature presentation and a small but sufficient supply of extras. This film is strictly for genre fans and even they won't likely enjoy it enough to watch it more than once.

Buy The Rite from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Blu-ray / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
The Last Exorcism • Let Me In • Doubt • Paranormal Activity 2 • Angels & Demons • Primal Fear • Case 39 • After.Life
New: The Green Hornet • No Strings Attached • Justin Bieber: Never Say Never • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Written by Michael Petroni: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Anthony Hopkins: Nixon • You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger • Proof • Bram Stoker's Dracula (Collector's Edition) • Beowulf (Director's Cut)
Alice Braga: Blindness • Predators | Ciaran Hinds: There Will Be Blood • Margot at the Wedding • Race to Witch Mountain • Stop-Loss



The Rite Songs List (in order of use): The Derek Trucks Band - "Don't Miss Me", Maya Magub - "Rhapsodie Italiana",
Alex Heffes - "All Clubbed Out", Ensemble Elan featuring Maya Magub - "The Four Seasons", "Sonny Boy"

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Reviewed May 14, 2011.



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