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The Pope's Exorcist review: Not even the power of Russell Crowe should compel you to see this

The Oscar winner brings an Italian accent that's even more implausible than Chris Pratt's Super Mario voice to this campy, overlong mess

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Russell Crowe in The Pope’s Exorcist
Russell Crowe in The Pope’s Exorcist
Photo: Screen Gems

While the entire film Internet obsessed over Chris Pratt’s Mario accent, Russell Crowe has quietly slipped in with The Pope’s Exorcist, speaking in an Italian-a accent-a that’s every bit as insane as the Greek one he brought to Thor: Love And Thunder. He also delivers dialogue in actual Italian as well, as in this film’s opening sequence where he cuts to the chase in a small-town exorcism, immediately challenging the demon to jump into a pig, where its brains are promptly blown out. But this is a feature for audiences who may not want to read subtitles for the duration, so he switches up to accented English the rest of the time.

That can be amazing to watch, when he’s dramatically intoning, “My diocese is Rome! My bishop is the Pope!” to a committee which is determined to find him out as a fraud, and when he’s trying to be sensitive with platitudes like, “A mother’s love is the closest thing we know to God’s love.” The Crow said it better, but the Crowe says it funnier.


He’s equaled in the accent department by a possessed boy (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) speaking with a Cockney-accented demonic voice (Ralph Ineson) that sounds almost exactly like Andy Serkis. Not the vocal chameleon Serkis who played Gollum and Caesar, though; more the un-mo-capped version if he were five beers in at the local pub. The child grabs his mother’s breasts and yells, “Baby’s hungry, you fat cow!” Then he threatens to have sex with Crowe’s Father Gabriele Amorth and bring him to climax. It’s impossible to take any of this remotely seriously, or find it particularly frightening. But it is its own sort of fun, at least for a while.


Ostensibly based on true events, with the real Amorth claiming to have performed over 50,000 exorcisms, this ’80s-set movie replaces the actual pontiff of the time, Poland’s John Paul II, with an unnamed Italian Pope played by Franco Nero, the original Django. If that doesn’t appropriately set the tone, nothing will, unless it’s Crowe riding around the Spanish countryside (the movie was actually shot in Ireland) on a Ferrari motor scooter half his width.

The young boy, Henry, is living in a run-down Spanish abbey when he gets possessed. He’s staying in the abbey with his mother and sister because his father recently got impaled through the head in a car accident (though the real reason seems to be so that there can be Americans in the story without fake accents, so just go with it.) Deducing rather quickly that Henry’s not faking it—because he knows things he shouldn’t—Amorth can’t skip to the ending as easily as in the first exorcism. Worse, the demon proclaims it will reveal hidden secrets to bring down the entire Vatican.

Is that really a bad thing, though? How many abuses and cover-ups in the ’90s and beyond might have been prevented if this demon merely got its way in 1987? So the creature picked a good moment in time, but for the fact that Italian Russell Crowe was around.

THE POPE’S EXORCIST – Official Trailer (HD)

There’s an undeniable camp appeal to all this, as Henry’s eyes keep changing colors and developing extra irises, as Amorth talks to statues and has visions of World War II, and as his sidekick, Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto), keeps stupidly engaging the demon after being repeatedly instructed not to. About an hour in, though, things start to drag. Director Julius Avery made an impressive original superhero story with Samaritan, but feels more constrained by formula this time around. Hang in there and be rewarded with naked apparitions, CG fire and, I kid you not, a set-up for a whopping number of sequels.


Frankly, an hour and 43 minutes is just too long for this sort of thing. Aside from the family’s traumatic loss, we’re not given much reason to care about them, and too much time gets wasted on the priests’ backstories, which most will catch on to pretty quickly. A tighter edit focused purely on the crazy bits could be a big cult hit; as is, it might be timed just right for a 4/20 viewing with plenty of smoke breaks.

The Pope’s Exorcist opens in theaters on April 14.