An Unassuming Face of 'Evil'

Former priest and convicted sexual offender Oliver O'Grady is the subject of the documentary
Former priest and convicted sexual offender Oliver O'Grady is the subject of the documentary "Deliver Us From Evil." (Lionsgate)
Friday, November 10, 2006

We think of evildoers in cliched incarnations -- serial killers, Nazis, the devil himself. Which is why we're totally unprepared for Oliver O'Grady. A 60-ish Catholic priest with a singsong lilt and twinkly-eyed demeanor, he's the kind of Emerald Isle figure we'd expect to see in, say, an Irish Spring commercial. But in "Deliver Us From Evil," he's a rapacious, remorseless child molester.

O'Grady, we learn from Amy Berg's documentary, was a priest in Northern California in the 1970s and '80s who was accused of sexually abusing dozens of children. He was convicted in the early 1990s of sexual offenses against two brothers; he was paroled after seven years and deported to Ireland in 2000.

Berg finds the ex-priest five years later in Dublin, ambling freely among schoolchildren as he recounts his patterns of abuse with almost cheery glee. O'Grady's willingness to speak about his ignoble acts -- with such casual ease -- is the movie's strongest and most disturbing element.

The film stokes audience anger even further with revelations -- courtesy of documents, videotaped depositions and interviews with anti-pedophilia activists, theologians, psychologists and lawyers -- that O'Grady's superiors not only turned a blind eye to his indiscretions, they enabled them. Every time trouble arose, then-Bishop Roger Mahony, now archbishop of Los Angeles, shunted O'Grady to another parish.

"Deliver Us From Evil" works best when it concentrates on O'Grady and the ever-rippling effect of his transgressions. Viewers may not remember the victims whose stories practically pierce the heart, but they're unlikely to forget O'Grady's deceptively innocent face.

-- Desson Thomson

Deliver Us From Evil Unrated, 101 minutes Contains profanity and themes of a deeply disturbing nature. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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