Bon vivant and genteel man-about-town Jerry Bruckheimer throws the considerable bulk of his cinematic hat into the occult thriller ring with the new release “Deliver Us From Evil.”
Aussie Eric Bana flexes his Bronx accent as police officer Ralph Sarchie, a real Bronx cop whose book “Beware The Night” details his experiences where crime and the demonic intersect. Sarchie and his partner Butler (an interestingly cast Joel McHale) investigate the attempted murder of a child by his mother, which leads them to a series of dark and brutal events with roots in the supernatural. Sarchie joins forces with a priest (Edgar Martinez) to battle a demon who has taken possession of the soul of a former soldier (Sean Harris). Olvia Munn also stars as Sarchie’s patient wife.
Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson and writer Paul Harris Boardman take several incidents from Sarchie’s book and fashion a fictional mash-up of crime and supernatural thrillers, one that finds a few interesting diversions from the standard demonic shake ‘n’ bake. There’s a real grit and atmosphere in the filmmakers’ use of Bronx locations, including a rare opportunity to shoot inside the Bronx Zoo (Derrickson’s commentary track mentions that they are the first film to shoot on zoo grounds in almost thirty years). Love that merry-go-round.
Seeking to find something fresh in a genre that has been beaten down by familiarity, this is a thriller that can’t be faulted for lack of visual ambition and grotesque creativity. There are ancient incantations of evil carved on human skin, a bone-shattering suicide, a corpse that disgorges a horde of flies and its own bloated intestines. The streets are rain-soaked, the shadows deep and relentless, and cinematographer Scott Kevan brings the slickly effective style we’ve come to expect in a Bruckheimer production.
But “Deliver” can’t escape all the clasping narrative tropes of the genre. There’s a climactic exorcism where the demon plays mind games (no bonus points for guessing when the priest loses his temper), and the mail-order assortment of jump scares. The dialogue varies from interesting to banal, and Derrickson’s honorable attempt to sandwich character study between the action beats often grinds the proceedings down to a crawl (the film runs a long-winded 118 minutes).
Bana has always seemed at his best as an actor in motion, physically convincing but emotionally distant, and pairing him with Ramirez as Father Handsome Smoking Cool Guy renders a few scenes into a near- comedy of muscled restraint. As the possessed, vicious Santino, Sean Harris goes all in, and though he’s not given enough to do, McHale is surprisingly effective as the wise-cracking sidekick, handling both the snaps and the knife fights with a capable, wry smart-assness.
The Blu-ray of “Deliver Us From Evil” is in 1080p high Definition, with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The transfer looks very good, with rich, shadowy blue-blacks and moody use of color. There are options for subtitles in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. There is code included for a digital Ultraviolet copy of the film.
The audio track is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and the sound quality and stereo spread is excellent and detailed. Sound design is particularly effective in the rear speakers. There is an option for French language dubbing, and an audio description track in Spanish.
- An enjoyable commentary track with director/writer Scott Derrickson, who is serious and informative without stroking his own ego too much.
- “illuminating Evil”—a good making-of featurette that explores the background source material, the life of Ralph Sarchie, and the film’s shoot on location in the Bronx. It includes interviews with Derrickson, stars Eric Bana, Joel McHale, Edgar Ramirez, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
- “Deliver Us From Demons”—an excellent, detailed short about the make-up effects, and the collaboration with actor Sean Harris on the extensive prostethics of the final exorcism sequence.
- “The Two Sergeants”—interviews with Bana and the real Ralph Sarchie about bringing his personality to the screen, and the collision of true life and fiction.
- “The Demon Detective”—explores Sarchie’s former life as police officer for the city, and his current career as true-believer demonologist for the Catholic Church
Uneven but not without visual energy, “Deliver Us From Evil” combines police and paranormal thrillers into a mixed bag of talk and shock.