Priest (2011)

Posted: June 17, 2011 in Hollywood
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A priest disobeys church law to track down the vampires who kidnapped his niece. –IMDb


Cory GoodmanMin-Woo Hyung (graphic novel series “Priest”)


Paul BettanyCam Gigandet and Maggie Q


 Action | Horror | Sci-Fi | Thriller



Visual effects developer-turned-director, Scott Stewart, delivers his second supernatural action film that claims to be “adapted” from the comic book “Priest”. the one thing they did right was to give us vampires that do not sparkle in the sunlight. These vampires are all teeth and claws who swarm across the world at night attacking from giant hives, a clear reference to the “Aliens” franchise. These savage beasts have been at constant war with mankind since the dawn of time. A beautifully bloody animated prologue sets the back-story of the film about how mankind’s salvation came in the form of the Priests, holy warriors who battled the vampire hordes to near extinction.

This story revolves around one of the veteran priests who lives among the other downtrodden human inhabitants of a walled dystopian city ruled by the now totalitarian church. When he receives word that his niece was abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, the priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out of the city and rescue her. He is joined on his crusade by his niece’s boyfriend, a young trigger-finger wasteland sheriff. But as the duo soon discover, reports of the vampires’ return have been greatly understated. With a powerful yet familiar threat is leading the newly reformed vampire hordes, the wayward Priest and his companion must fend off supernatural foes and contend with a group of fellow Priests sent to hunt down their rogue brother.

“Priest” is one cliché storm of a film that commits the cardinal sins of a paper thin plot and forgettable characters thanks to the inexperience of first time writer Cory Goodman. The characters are so forgettable that the writer never even bothered to give many of them names. Paul Bettany’s main character is just called “Priest” (It is not his name by the way). There is also “Black Hat” (because he wears a black hat) and “The Priestess” (because she is a female priest) just to name a few. They are less like actual characters and more like blank character archetypes thrown in for plot convenience. Archetypes like Cam Gigandet’s hot headed Sheriff Hicks (a second reference to Aliens perhaps?) and Lily Collin’s damsel in distress Lucy are just as forgettable even though they do have names. There are also some hints at a deeper relationship between Bettany and Maggie Q’s character, but again, that is mostly relegated to the sidelines. Karl Urban looks tough and menacing as Black Hat, but that is about it. Near the conclusion, there are some revelations about his character that might have given greater depth to him in throughout the proceedings, but once again, these are unexplored save for some lip service.

Still of Priest

Failing to provide interesting characters or a good story, the least the producers could do was to deliver a holy hell load of violence with a hard R or M18 rating. Sadly the animated prologue has more blood and guts than the entire film combined since most of the gorier battles take place in darkness or amid dust. The Fights are well choreographed but they tend to be more stylish than practical and sometimes border on illogical. For example, a duel on a high speed train is awesome but none of the combatants ever thought of kicking his opponent off the side? But despite these failings of the flesh, some salvation comes to “Priest” in the form of an excellent production design. From the dark cyberpunk inspired Church city to the post apocalyptic western towns dotting the hostile desert lands, great attention had been paid to make those places as believable as possible. Perhaps most memorable would be the tech on display in the film which includes futuristic motorcycles, tricked out shotguns and the Priests’ arsenal of deadly cross-themed blade weapons.

Paul Bettany was brilliant as a man pulled from his family to serve the church, only to be told after years of service that he’s no longer necessary. He keeps his Priest reserved to an occasional line and a lot of scouring throughout the running time. There are the suggestions of hidden pain in the character, but the film rarely stops to investigate, mostly mentioning it in passing. Karl Urban who is a very convincing Black Hat pulls of a very good performance. Cam Gigandet is horrible, he doesn’t have any emotions and just read his lines, and he terribly needs to take some acting classes. He practices his pseudo-southern drawl, but not a whole lot else. Lily Collins showed promise, but was left with a pitiful “damsel in distress” role that could not highlight her abilities. She gets to scream and cry in the role of Lucy.

All in all, good concept gone wrong. It could have been another classic action-flick. But the poor screenplay, bad direction spoilt it. I rate it 4.5 out of 10 for the great cinematography.

Watch the trailer…


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