Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Writers: Cory Goodman, Min-Woo Hyung
Starring: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q
When, exactly, did Paul Bettany become an action star?
He is, on the surface, the least threatening guy I’ve ever seen – he looks like the kind of guy who’d enjoy a good night’s easy listening to Kenny G. But at some point in the past few years he really got into the idea of tackling spiritual issues with extreme prejudice.
Anyhoo, Priest is an apocalyptic-sci-fi-horror-action-comic-book-western (and I’ve probably missed one or two genre mash-ups there). An impressive animated sequence explains that there have always been humans and vampires and they don’t get along…at all. The problem is that vampires have always had the upper hand because, y;know, no-one can kill them and they can throw cars at people. Then I assume God (not actually mentioned in this bit, but I think I can reasonably extrapolate his involvement from the title of the film) decided that after the world turned mostly Saharan, He’d give everyone a break and created the Priests – supernatural people with the mystical powers of martial arts, sharp objects and intensely furrowed brows.
The flick was apparently based on a graphic novel, and it seems like the makers expected their audience to have read it prior to seeing the film. Central to any fantasy film, no matter the genre, is the need to establish the rules that the world operates on. Star Wars has The Force; Star Trek has techno-babble; Lord of the Rings had…rings. Priest makes no effort at any point to lay out the rules of this particular post-apocalyptic world. What are the Priests capable of? What kind of creatures are these Vampires? We never get told, and it actually makes it kind of hard to appreciate the stakes (he he…get it?).
The action is pretty passable; the performances are passable; the design of the world is intruiging…but nothing really makes it memorable. Priest commits the ultimate sacrilege not by having Christopher Plummer play a manipulative figure of religious authority, but by casting the brilliant Brad Dourif and discarding him after two freakin’ minutes!
How to Enjoy It
Wait till it comes out on DVD. Then rent it along with Legion and play “Spot the Difference”. You win if you can find all 15.
2 out of 5 stars (Disappointing)