'Deliver Us From Evil': Only the finale possesses any oomph

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceJuly 1, 2014 

1175917 - DELIVER US FROM EVIL�

A priest (Édgar Ramírez ), left, and a cop (Eric Bana) join forces in a fight against demonic possession in Deliver Us From Evil.

ANDREW SCHWARTZ

  • MOVIE REVIEW

    'Deliver Us From Evil'

    ★☆☆☆☆

    R for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout, and language. Screen Gems. 1:58. Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Movie Tavern, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester, Woodhill.

Deliver Us from Evil takes a very long time to deliver us from dullness. This police procedural about demonic possession gets good and wound up only for its third-act exorcism.

That's when actor Édgar Ramírez, playing a chain-smoking, whiskey-loving Jesuit priest named Mendoza, stops phoning it in.

The priest has been trying to help a cop, Sgt. Sarchie (Eric Bana), who is puzzled by some stuff he has seen: Iraq War vets start showing signs of supernatural evil, thanks to a tomb they stumbled into while on duty in the Middle East. But the doubting Sarchie is reluctant to call the helpful Mendoza.

Sarchie is a cop with "radar," strong hunches that have him leading his partner (Joel McHale) into harm's way.

Checking into a domestic-violence call, a report of "scratching noises in the basement" and a call about a "crazy woman at the Bronx Zoo" has Sarchie seeing bloody visions and hearing static — and snippets of the Doors. "Break on through to the other side," he is ordered. "People are strange," he's warned.

The foreshadowing is obvious in this "inspired by" account of Sarchie, a real New York cop who's seen The Exorcist a few too many times, judging from this. We hear him say, "I hate cats." We hear his daughter wonder, "Why doesn't Daddy come to church with us?" We know every one of those is a plot point that comes back for a cheap scare or an attempted jolt.

Overwhelming its other shortcomings is director Scott Derrickson's agonizing lack or urgency. Sarchie should be alarmed, frightened, obsessed. He has his own demons, we're told. Bana doesn't give us much of that.

Ramírez is just there playing Father Exposition: explaining demonic possession, how he came to believe in it and the stages of exorcism. He seems detached, barely involved, sleepy-eyed and sort of "been there, done that" about the whole thing.

Ramírez comes off like that prom queen you envied in school, and maybe pitied later in life. If we hadn't seen him as the title character in the TV film Carlos the Jackal, we'd think he had nothing else to offer beyond looks.

But after 90 minutes in which the only creepy moments come when the evil comes after Sarchie's wife (Olivia Munn) and kid (Lulu Wilson), everybody gets their game face on for the big good-versus-evil confrontation with crucifixes, including an eyewitness cop straight out of a horror parody.

But that delivery arrives too little, too late.

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