A New York cop and a priest team up for an unusual case.
Deliver Us From Evil is a film that does a great many things, you just end up wishing it did some of them better.
Writer/director Scott Derrickson, who helmed the effective Sinister in 2012, has had his eye on this project for many years. It has its origins in a non-fiction book by former NYPD fellow Ralph Sarchie and Derrickson was hired to write an adaptation almost 10 years ago. After gaining some attention as a director, he managed to resurrect the film alongside producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The picture has a fantastic hook – basically it’s a dark and grimy police procedural with Eric Bana a murder case in a dreary New York while trying to manage his life at home with Olivia Munn. Thriller elements are slowly introduced to up the pace of the investigation and later the supernatural slowly creeps in.
I love that concept, playing the cop stuff totally straight and going along for the ride with the hero as his sense of reality starts to shatter. And Derrickson does a fantastic job, complete with intense camerawork and the darkest and most unfamiliar vision of New York we’ve seen on screen in years.
It’s in the second hour that things start to get a little murky. The supernatural stuff is some of the most generic and familiar possession stuff I’ve ever seen and the often clunky script doesn’t help matters. Throw in staid religious arguments from Edgar Ramirez’s priest and a dull exorcism scene which literally lasts about 20 minutes and you have a disappointingly weak finale to a film that started with such potential.
At least Bana is committed. He acts the shit out of even the poorest lines, making us root for his character throughout. He’s by far the best thing in the film, especially next to an underused Olivia Munn and the never quite convincing Ramirez.
It’s a tough tone to balance and Derrickson sadly wasn’t quite up to the task, seeming to be unsure of how far to push the horror elements and throwing in random scenes of extreme gore to give the film a few moments of shock. It’s another mis-step in a film that’s so strange it features an extended knife fight where you’re supposed to buy Joel McHale as a badass. Really weird stuff.