Tag Archives: Franco Nero

In Need of Some Restraint

The Pope’s Exorcist

by Hope Madden

Fair warning: I do tend to get in the weeds with these Catholic horror movies.

So, The Pope’s Exorcist.

Russell Crowe plays Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who was an honest to God exorcist based in the Vatican. He founded the International Association of Exorcists. For real, not in this movie. In this movie, he gets called to Spain to help an expat American family whose son is possessed.

The Pope’s Exorcist is the third possession film Michael Petroni has penned. Is that good news? He also wrote The Secret Lives of Alter Boys, the TV series Messiah, and The Chronicles of Naria: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (How is that relevant, you say? Aslan is lion Jesus. FYI.) Is the point that he knows his stuff? Or that most of those scripts aren’t very good?

Co-writer Evan Spilotopoulos has also written lukewarm Catholic horror (The Unholy). What you can expect from their script (also co-written by R. Dean McCreary in his first holy horror) is very little that’s truly original.

This is where Crowe comes in.

Crowe is great. He’s funny, clever, looks amazing on his little Vespa. Alex Essoe as the possessed boy’s mother Julia is stiff, her acting even less believable when she sits across the table from Crowe, who’s enjoying every moment of his own performance. As will you.

Franco Nero plays the pope. This marks the second time Nero has played the pope, which is hilarious to me. Anyway, that’s fun. And Ralph Ineson (The VVitch) is the voice of the demon, which is the most authentic casting ever.

The Pope’s Exorcist directly mentions that the Catholic church has been the cause of two of the greatest and longest lasting sources of human misery in history: the Inquisition and the history of rampant, institutional sexual abuse. Credit for that. The film’s resolution can’t be discussed because of spoilers, but battling your demons has rarely felt less feminist.

The Pope’s Exorcist doesn’t hold a candle to the diabolical military fun of director Julius Avery’s Overlord. There are too few surprises, the FX are so-so at best, and the outcome is never really in question. Plus, it treads too heavily on the popularity of The Conjuring’s universe of “this must be true because some Catholic person wrote it down, so let’s create a Holy Water franchise.”

Is it better than Petroni’s 2011 dumpster fire, The Rite? It is. Is it another movie that says men throughout the history of Catholicism have done evil things to the powerless around them, but the only way to correct this is to believe other men in the Catholic church? It is.

But Crowe is having a blast, and it’s infectious.

Wickity Wack

John Wick: Chapter 2

by Hope Madden

Keanu Reeves is a cyborg. He’s seen human behavior – he just can’t replicate it very believably. It’s a reasonable theory, isn’t it?

But every once in a while he lands on a role where acting like an actual human just doesn’t matter – like the surprise 2014 hit John Wick. If you enjoyed that splashy bit of violence and canine love, you’re likely to appreciate its strangely anticipated sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2.

The Keyser Soze of international hitmen, Wick was brought out of retirement, you’ll remember, when a half-assed Russian mobster stole his dog and his car. And if you could make it through the maudlin, sentimental crap and focus just on that kickass hotel shit, it was a mildly entertaining film despite Reeves’s absence of talent.

Once out of retirement, though, Wick has a tough time getting back out of the biz.

Chapter 2 picks up right where the previous installment ended. Wick, his beloved if unnamed pit by his side, re-buries the gold coins and weapons of his trade. But Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) requires Wick’s services – and he’s not above doing ill-advised things to acquire his compliance.

Director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad return, both improving on their previous effort by streamlining the story, limiting sentimentality and spending more time exploring what was cool the first time – The Continental.

Turns out there’s a mirror hotel in Rome, site of Wick’s new gig. There’s also a high-powered organization of the world’s most influential criminals as well as an armed, underground network masquerading as New York’s homeless.

Basically, 4 out of every 5 people walking the street are trained killers. Who’s paying for all this?

Stahelski ups his game with the action sequences. Wick’s movements are without ego – they are clean and efficient, which is appropriate. And he likes to shoot the knees out, so points for that. Stahelski films with flair – fascinating framing, often beautifully backlit. It’s fun.

Still, there’s the problem of Reeves’s acting. (I’m sure he’s a very nice man.) Stahelski does what he can by pairing his lead with slightly more agile actors to buoy the few scenes with dialog. The always-welcome Ian McShane returns. Peter Serafinowicz and Franco Nero make tangy appearances, along with one co-star who would have been a fun surprise had his face not been splashed all over the trailer.

Sure, there are problems – besides the dialog. Why are the bad guys all such bad shots? Where are all the witnesses? Eye-rolling contrivance follows ludicrous convenience, but these guys brought their shootin’ boots.

It’s not like you don’t know what you’re in for here.