After directing one of my favourite films of last year, Sinister, the next film from Scott Derrickson was always going to be on my radar. When Deliver Us From Evil added three essential E's - Eric Bana, Édgar Ramirez and Exorcism - it looked like having all the ingredients for another strong turn from Derrickson in the horror genre (the other being the outstanding Exorcism of Emily Rose). Unfortunately Deliver Us From Evil is a disjointed scatter-scare effort that can’t reconcile the action and the terror.
A marine unit in Iraq are on night infiltration mission to take out militia troops when they stumble into a tomb. A presence latches on when they encounter a demonic gateway. When they return home to Brooklyn, Detective Ralph Sarchie (Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) encounter the unexplainable fallout. When their grasping with the supernatural a priest, Mendoza (Ramirez), steps in with a theory.
Derrickson knows how to incite terror. He’s got a great eye for different kinds of film stock to evoke different moods throughout. The opening scene of the film showcases some high paced night action as this small team is weeding our guerrillas. When they stumble upon an ancient structure Derrickson flashes to the grating, helmet POV camera to trap the audience with the fighters. This is contrast with a dark and rainy Brooklyn that's got the Blade Runner forecast and French Connection 70s cop film aesthetic. Sarchie's (Bana) world is one of a tangible terrifying reality of heinous acts of man until Derrickson fills ever dark corner with biblical dread. Writers Paul Harris Boardman and Derrickson are treading a fine line of police action and horror and the two go together like oil and water. The movie exclusively about Mendoza looks like the film that Derrickson wanted to make, while Sarchie's story lacks conviction.
Bana unfortunately is not even in the same time zone as his career defining performances of Chopper and Munich. He certainly embodies the physicality of the hard cop Ralph Sarchie and in his quiet moments conveys the internal torment of a man haunted by rash decisions on the job and the spiritual tendrils of this demonic presence that’s entered his life. However, his characterisation when he’s in the presence of his family (Olivia Munn plays his wife Jen) is let down by one of the worst Brooklyn accents committed to screen. Forget exorcising demons; exorcise that accent from the film. Bana doesn't seem as invested in the relationship at the centre of the film as he does in the supernatural firing line.
Derrickson does for Ramirez and priests what Robert Rodriguez did for Antonio Banderas and mariachis. He’s the coolest, flawed badass priest to ever grace the screen. Derrickson shoots him like a prize fighter, bobbing and weaving the demonic venom literally and figuratively spat at him. Ramirez is the kind of actor that you see all too briefly in the Hollywood mainstream. He's the best thing in Deliver Us From Evil.
In the scare department Deliver Us From Evil is solid. However Sarchie's sphere of the tale felt strained.
[rating=2] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Joel McHale, Chris Coy, Sean Harris, Dorian Missick
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