Exorcism thriller doesn’t perk up until late in game.
“Deliver Us From Evil” takes a very long time to deliver us from dullness. This demonic possession police procedural only gets good and wound up for its third-act exorcism.
That’s when Edgar Ramirez, as a chain-smoking, whisky-loving Jesuit priest, stops phoning it in and gets wound up himself. As Mendoza, he’s offered his services to the puzzled cop, Sgt. Sarchie (Eric Bana), much earlier.
But Sarchie makes us play the “how long before the cop gets around to calling the helpful priest” game as Satanic civilians — Iraq war vets — start showing signs of supernatural evil, thanks to a tomb they stumbled into while on duty in the Middle East.
Sarchie is a cop with “radar,” strong hunches that have him leading his partner (Joel McHale) into harm’s way. Checking into a domestic violence call, another “scratching noises in the basement” call, and a third “crazy woman at the Bronx Zoo,” one has Sarchie seeing bloody visions and hearing static — and snippets of the Doors.
The foreshadowing is blatant. We hear him say “I hate cats” and his daughter wonder “Why doesn’t Daddy come to church with us?” and we know these are plot points that will come back for a cheap scare.
Overwhelming its other shortcomings is the film’s agonizing lack of urgency. Sarchie should be alarmed, frightened, obsessed. He has his own demons, we’re told. Bana doesn’t give us much of that.
And Ramirez seems detached and sort of “been there, done that” about the whole thing. If we hadn’t seen him in the TV film “Carlos the Jackal,” we’d think he had nothing to offer beyond looks.
But after 90 minutes in which the only creepy moments come when the evil comes after Sarchie’s wife (Olivia Munn) and kid (Lulu Wilson), everybody gets their game face on for the big Good vs. Evil confrontation with crucifixes, including an eyewitness cop straight out of some horror parody.
And that delivery arrives as too little, too late.