The good news is that the second collaboration between director Scott Stewart and actor Paul Bettany is a marked improvement on the pseudo-religious muck that was Legion. The bad news is that fact doesn’t make Priest any more enjoyable. Weird enough to be cool and silly enough to be stupid, Priest doesn’t make the most of its genre-blending and allows for far too many missed opportunities as it spins its yarns about vampire killing in the future.
Based on the graphic novels penned by Min-Woo Hyung, Priest tells the story one man’s (Paul Bettany) attempt to slaughter hundred of unholy vampires with an uber-catholicized weapon of mass destruction. Simple and to the point, you know? What you need to know is that the clergy have become the ruling class in the future and they are trained in all sorts of ass-kicking ways to deal with the plague of vampires – led by Karl Urban – in an attempt to restore God’s word. When facing the undead and Christopher Plummer, prayer just isn’t enough.
I imagine the goofy situations and genre-hopping that occurs throughout the movie works well enough in the graphic novels. It’s a miss on the screen, though. Something important gets lost in the translation. Sure, the movie is wise enough to never take anything it says or does too seriously, but when that translates to the characters, too, there is a bit of a problem. Nothing is at stake. It’s all glossy action for action’s sake and the hollowness only belittles the experience of the movie. No tension. No real drama. Ultimately, Priest is just a series of hollow words and hollow characters surrounded by some really strong scenery that deserves a better story.
Screenwriter Cory Goodman begs and borrows from so many other anthemic films that part of the fun in watching Priest is identifying its heavy-handed nods to its influences. We zip in and out Blade Runner only to find us facing down the long-barreled gun of a Sergio Leone flick. All the while, I find myself missing the Whedon’s Firefly as the movie settles upon a western sort of premise. Sadly, Priest can’t escape that cloud of sci-fi connection and influences because it doesn’t really want to. That’s where it’s sincerity ends.
Bettany’s performance is all wink-wink-nudge-nudge and then – without reason - turns on a dime with a back-story that is grossly unmoving and uninteresting. Inexplicably (maybe because he was available?), Brad Dourif shows up for a couple of crazy scenes and then disappears into the dystopian dust and is never heard from again. Lily Collins as the kidnapped niece which sets Priest out on his mission to kill, is never more than celluloid eye-candy. Even Urban’s performance as the witty head honcho can’t save this film from its own undoing.
Offering nothing new to the genre-blending genre (if such a title exists!!!), Priest is an unholy mess of interesting, yet largely wasted possibilities.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language.
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Writer: Cory Goodman, Min-Woo Hyung
Cast: Paul Bettany; Karl Urban; Cam Gigandet; Maggie Q; Lily Collins; Brad Dourif
Genre: Action | Horror | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote: "The devil comes in many shapes."
Distributor: Screen Gems
Official Site: priest-movie.net
Release Date: May 13, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date: August 16, 2011
Plot Synopsis: Priest, a post-apocalyptic sci fi thriller, is set in an alternate world -- one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany) from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece (Lily Collins) is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on an obsessive quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece’s boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q) who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.
Available on Blu-ray - August 16, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Bonus View (PiP); BD-Live; movieIQ
As much suffering as the movie puts its viewer through, one thing can be said for certain: Priest certainly looks blessed on blu-ray. Yeah, it’s all gloss and little substance. Colors are wonderfully sharp and stunning. The western locales are loaded with detail and depth. The balance of the picture – especially during its night scenes – never overcompensates and remains natural and pure. There is a nice layer of texture throughout the feature that makes for one hell of a viewing experience at home. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is equally verbose and as eloquent. The rich sound is layered in the back and, at times, dialogue (which is front loaded) appears to be weak. The entire soundstage is used and abused by Priest.
- Provided by Director Scott Stewart, Writer Cory Goodman, and Actors Paul Bettany and Maggie Q, the commentary covers much of the same ground as the supplemental Picture-in-Picture experience and only a bit more. The gang is completely on board with the project and, certainly, their love for the film is audible. Fans will enjoy this, but most will find it a bit repetitive.
Priest is only available in an unrated format but still clocking in at a quick 87 minutes, it’s unsure as to where that additional few minutes occurs. The supplemental material kicks off with a pretty robust Picture-in-Picture guide through the making of the picture and adds some nice deleted scenes that were, apparently, too character-driven to make the final, polished cut of the film. Too bad. The look of the graphic novel and its film counterpart is dissected in a couple of featurettes and there’s a nice look at the weapons and vehicles used throughout.
The breakdown is as follows:
- Bullets and Crucifixes: Picture-in-Picture Experience (87 min)
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (13 min)
- Flashback #2 (Extended)
- Priestess Tells Hicks to Focus
- The Whole Town
- Black Hat Flashback – Extended
- Train Fight (Extended)
- Priest Returns With a Head
- Lucy Asks Priest to Stay.
- The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of ‘Priest’ (13 min)
- Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles of ‘Priest’ (12 min)