Somewhere buried deep beneath the murky photography, lazy mirror gags, sound-based jump scares, and deeply unnecessary cruelty to cats that make up the bulk of the dire Deliver Us From Evil is a not-uninteresting story about an on-the-edge cop hunting down a group of PTSD-suffering former soldiers. Not to say that movie would be any good, but it would certainly be better than this rote exorcism-is-real claptrap.
The movie opens with a note that it is based on the actual experiences of New York City police sergeant Ralph Sarchie, though in trying to ground the film in reality, it only makes itself look more ridiculous. Sarchie (played by Eric Bana, an Australian with a cartoonish Noo Yawk accent here) navigates the perpetually rain-soaked Bronx following the connection between a series of seemingly unrelated crimes that all circle back to a dishonorably discharged Iraq War vet named Santino (Sean Harris). With the help of his partner (Joel McHale, surprisingly not distracting) and a sexy Jesuit priest named Mendoza (Carlos star Edgar Ramirez, who really deserves better), Sarchie must decipher whether Santino is possessed by a demon or merely thinks he is.
The procedural portions of Deliver, while no more complicated than an episode of Law & Order: SVU, do build reasonable levels of tension, only to deflate every time Mendoza shows up to batter back evil with a handful of Hail Marys. That’s a fundamental problem with most exorcism stories: they lack drama because they all have to make the argument that absolute evil exists, which makes the solution to that problem divine intervention or bust. So Deliver devolves into a predictable, overlong waiting game. What’s worse, it wants to convince you that it’s a thoughtful meditation on faith, but the only thought I had was, after noticing McHale’s character has the seven deadly sins tattooed on the back of his neck, ”Man, I should have just stayed in and watched Se7en.” You should do the same. D+