The supernatural thriller The Rite is a different kind of literary adaptation a film not “based on” or even “inspired by” a written work but rather “suggested by” one. The degree to which this fictional film adheres factually to its source material Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of an American Exorcist is anybody’s guess. Fans of The Exorcist might argue that it’s more strongly “suggested by” William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic than anything else.
Erstwhile unknown Colin O’Donoghue in his first feature role plays Michael a seminary student sent to Rome to learn the intricacies of demonic possession. A pronounced skeptic who isn’t even sure he believes in god much less the Catholic doctrine of exorcism Michael is inclined toward the more humanistic view of the “possessed” as simply disturbed or schizophrenic individuals. What they really need he insists is not a priest but a good psychiatrist. (That belief certainly won't endear him to the Church of Scientology.)
To rid him of such malignant pragmatism Michael’s headmaster (Ciaran Hinds) ships him off to serve an apprenticeship under Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) a Welsh Jesuit (shorthand for “eccentric”) and practicing exorcist. Having been around the theological block a few times Lucas reacts to Michael’s unbelief with wry nonchalance (a Hopkins specialty and the film’s most appealing trait); he knows that Satan’s arguments will prove far more convincing than any he might offer.
And Satan gets to work forthwith first using a pregnant Italian girl as his vessel then incorporating other representatives of the animal kingdom tormenting Michael with horned frogs and red-eyed demon mules. At first exhibiting admirable restraint director Mikael Hafstrom eventually employs just about every weapon in his terror arsenal bombarding Michael with harrowing visions and flashbacks (he grew up in a funeral home with an undertaker father played by Rutger Hauer who had a habit of bringing his work home with him) which offer ample opportunities for cheap scares. His trump card of course is Hopkins whose character eventually becomes possessed himself thus allowing The Rite to fulfill the Lucas/Lucifer conceit we all knew was coming.
The Rite varies wildly in tone with Hafstrom seemingly unable to decide if his film is to be a moody serious-minded psychological thriller or some campy outlandish horror-comedy. By the time Father Lucas becomes possessed and the reenactment of the first great celestial battle begins the film gives itself wholly over to the latter. As channeled by Hopkins the devil comes off as a less eloquent more vulgar version of Hannibal Lecter taunting Michael with naughty words and voraciously devouring scenery. The Dark Lord as a dirty old man is something of a novel concept I suppose. Scary? Maybe a little. Creepy? Oh hell yes.
“A heel should be about SEX!” yells Lola played with electrifying force by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Based on a true story Kinky Boots takes a look at an old-school shoe factory in the quiet burgh of Northampton England. Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) inherits the place when his father passes away--but the factory in financial straits. It is simply outdated. So on the advice of one of his employees Lauren (Sarah-Jane Potts) Charlie decides to think out of the box so to speak and finds a niche market selling over-the-top but sturdy footwear to transvestites and drag queens. But he needs vision since most of the factory’s workers are used to making men’s loafers. That’s where Lola one of London’s premier drag queens comes in. She has all the flair and design ideas Charlie is looking for--but bringing her to conservative Northampton proves to be a bit tricky. That is until everyone gets to know Lola. Ejiofor is definitely an actor to watch out for. Since making an indelible impression in Stephen Frears’ gritty drama Dirty Pretty Things the British-born actor has been quietly stealing scenes in almost every movie he is in--from playing a deliciously evil drug lord in Four Brothers to Denzel Washington’s sparring partner in Inside Man. But in Kinky Boots Ejiofor doesn’t have to steal any scenes; he IS the movie as the tough but kindhearted Lola. The rest of the cast does a very nice job don’t get me wrong. Edgerton (King Arthur) is particularly endearing as the son desperately trying to keep his dad’s dreams alive while Potts (Wonderland) with her pixie face plays Charlie’s sweet love interest. But it’s all Ejiofor--strutting around in one outlandish musical number after another all while helping Charlie save the factory. A tour de force. A movie about shoes. What could be more fun? Actually Kinky Boots follows some standard fairly foolproof plot devices. There’s the son taking over the family business even though he has no interest in it but finds the joy of making shoes after all. Then there’s the drag queen who is just so fan-tabulous on the stage just OWNS the world but of course harbors deep pain over a father who never understood her and can’t find the right man to save her life. These kind of Boots have walked before. But with a quirky script from writers Geoff Deane and Tim Firth and an easy-going style from TV director Julian Jarrold the film further highlights that certain British wry sensibility that makes most comedies from across the pond so very appealing.