The power of Russell Crowe compels you to watch The Pope’s Exorcist
When the Vasquez family arrive to take up residence in an old Spanish Abbey – a bequest from the recently deceased father – its not long before their son, Henry, starts acting strangely. As his condition worsens and his behaviour grows more extreme – to the mystification of medical scientist, the local priest quickly decides that an expert is called for and sends for Father Gabriele Amorth, THE POPE’S EXORCIST.
It’s hard to overstate how generic THE POPE’S EXORCIST is. Metatextually and textually it’s pretty much the Nepo Baby of William Friedkin’s 1973 classic THE EXORCIST (the release of which effectively created a surge in demand for exorcisms, giving the real-life Amorth a job for life). This first film adaptation of his memoirs is – to a large extent – a reimaging of that same story, just with a bit more action and a joyfully swashbuckling turn from Russell Crowe as he zips Quixotically around Europe on his trusty Vespa.
There’s little of Max Von Sydow’s fragile solemnity here. This Exorcist is one smirking wink away from taking a swig of communion wine, throwing on pair of aviator sunglasses before water-ski jumping over a shark just to stick it to Satan. To be honest, it’s likely only his Catholic vow of celibacy that prevents Crowe’s Amorth from swaggering around with a babe hanging off his arm.
Crowe is having a whale of a time here, and he takes the audience by the hand and leads them, with twinkly-eyed charm, through the requisite parade of cracking bones, blasphemy and Beelzebubic scarification that any decent possession horror movie demands. With Amorth snugly positioned in the role of a bible-weilding James Bond, The Pope (Franco Nero) becomes an ersatz M, sending his favoured agent out on the most dangerous assignments while ambitious bureaucrats seek to close the whole operation down.
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a demonic ding-dong this much since Leslie Nielsen’s underrated REPOSSESSED, but THE POPE’S EXORCIST is a pretty decent horror movie elevated to a great time by the sheer charismatic presence – and point blank refusal to give in to the accent haters of THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER – of Russell mother-prayin’ Crowe. Are you not entertained? You’re God-blessed right I was.