A Movable Priest
Priest 3D US 2011
Directed by Scott Charles Stewart
Playing at cinemas now.
Warning: There are a few spoilers here.
Priest is one of those films that I was only half-interested in seeing as the "idea" of the movie appealed to me far more than the actual trailer did. Also, the movie topline’s actor Paul Bettany and I’ve never really been a big fan of his... all that may be about to change however since he seems to be doing more genre movies now and the last film I saw him in was Legion, which I was quite pleased with (see my review here). I’m actually beginning to like him in this kind of quasi-religious, one man (or priest or angel, depending upon which movie you are watching him in) against a legion of ferocious, fearsome "things" because he really seems to take the roles seriously or, at the very least, makes the premise of the movies he’s in look fairly credible.
When I trawled through the internet to find out what Scott Charles Stewart had directed before, I found that his first feature length movie as a director was indeed the movie before this one, which turns out to be the aforementioned Legion. So not only does he like working with Paul Bettany (one must assume) but he also churns out movies which are basically big budget sci-fi genre flicks which do not really, in any way, rise above their B movie influences but which are still quite fun all the same.
And fun is definitely what Priest is all about... don’t go to the cinema to see this and expect to have your brain taxed too hard. In an alternate world history (shown in a beautiful animated form after the opening sequence which deals with the nameless Priest’s personal background) vampires and humans ave been fighting since the dark ages. Man always ultimately loses and the final surviving population are living in a protected city, not dissimilar to the idea of the domes in Logan’s Run, and they are run by the clergy in a conceptually interesting world created on screen which is a bit Blade Runner meets The New Testament. A select team of “gifted” humans have now been trained as kick-ass vampire killers by the church and over the preceeding decade or so, have wiped out all the vampires (or so it is supposed)... and so, in addition to the city dwellers, you have various “settlers” in a direct parody of the Old West dotted around the vast desert that is all that we see of planet Earth in this movie. However, now they’ve outlived their usefulness the vampire hunting priests have been disbanded and left to get jobs for themselves in a city which doesn’t need them... until...
Okay, now before I go any further I have to say that I’ve not read any of the comic books on which Priest is based on... but I have seen a fairly large amount of movies in my wasted lifetime and I can tell you now that Priest is pretty much just a rehash of the great John Ford film The Searchers... except whereas the niece of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in that film is taken by indians which leads Edwards to go on a quest to either bring her back or kill her if she’s “gone Indian”, Priest’s “niece” is kidnapped by vampires which kick starts him into turning his back on the church and going on a quest to either find her or... you know... kill her if she’s turned vampire. The only main difference in this movie, apart from the obvious vampire and sci-fi accoutrements, is the fact that the evil half-human/half-vampire Black Hat (played as brilliantly as ever by Karl Urban) is actually using the girl so he can draw Priest from the city (and the other of his kind who he knows will be sent to despatch Priest when he turns his back on the church) and attack the city with a train full of vampires while Priest is distracted... and that there is as much of the plot as I’m going to reveal in this review... if you want to know anymore then watch the darned movie.
This is not the most satisfying film in the world but as action films go it’s quite a respectable one which manages to cross the genres of action flick, sci-fi flick and scare fest with relative ease and all the while not getting too dull by overloading you with too much jumping and shooting on screen. There are also some interesting actors and actresses involved in the project, not least of all Maggie Q and yet another insidious cameo by Brad Dourif... who seems to have made a career out of such minor appearances as the “human who betrays his own kind” character he plays here (don't worry, you'll figure that much out as soon as you see him... otherwise why hire Brad Dourif?).
The 3D in the movie is quite good but, ultimately, it’s really not adding anything to my viewing experience other than slightly achy eyes and the illusion of depth (in a film which really doesn’t need much depth to convey it’s main premise :-) so... honestly? I could have done without the 3D and the added pay-us-an-extra-£1.50-because-it’s-in-3D-even-though-you-already-brought-your-own-glasses-you-gullible-audience-member surcharge on top of the ticket price. 3D is really just a gimmick to get everyone to pay a little bit more for something which could have been a lot more with a little bit less... if you know what I mean?
Either way, there’s no sense in hiding it, Priest is a vampire western with sci-fi/horror trappings... specifically the western I mentioned earlier... so if kick-ass action flicks with quasi-religious pretensions and some quite animalistic incarnations of vampires are your kind of thing, look no further than this movie for a good night out. Personally I preferred Legion to this movie but I’ll certainly be watching this one again when it comes round on DVD so I’m glad I saw it. Perhaps, if it makes its money back, we may get a sequel at some point in the near future?