Movie Review for Priest



Action, Horror, Thriller | R-13 | 1 hr 30 min
Columbia Pictures
Main Cast
Paul Bettany
Priest goes through the trouble of building a whole alternate reality, filling in a lot of detail with a nicely animated intro and a couple of lavishly designed environments. But then, the film doesn’t do much else with the premise. Priest is pretty much all set up, creating an interesting little world for the characters to work in before sending them headlong into a plot that refuses to make any sense. Simplicity can be a benefit to modern action films, but Priest is definitely a film that could use a little subtext.

The film takes place in a world where man has spent much of history at war with vampires. Man has triumphed over the monsters thanks to the efforts of the Priests: an order of clerics blessed with supernatural abilities. After their victory, the Church locked away the vampires in reservations and disbanded the Priests. Years later, a lone Priest (Paul Bettany) receives the news that his brother has been killed by vampires and his niece has been taken away. Fearing public panic, the Church forbids the Priest from pursuing the matter. But the Priest defies the Church’s orders and sets out with a young lawman (Cam Gigandet) to track down his niece. Along the way, he discovers a grand scheme that could mean the end of all humanity.

The first thing that one might notice is that the plot doesn’t really make much sense. The premise doesn’t really hold together. Why would the humans allow the vampires to survive in reservations? Why did they declare victory without taking out the vampire queen? In the film, the vampires travel in the daylight by riding in a train, which seems unnecessarily limiting. Are there no trucks in this world? The vampires have also created a new breed of vampire that can walk in the sunlight. Why haven’t they made more of those? Action films are always forgiven for some level of nonsense, but Priest seems determined to push past those limits.

The plot appears to have been cobbled together to accommodate a series of homages. The city in the film is right out of Blade Runner. The relationship between the Priest and the lawman Hicks recalls The Searchers. Some of the fight scenes look like The Matrix. It’s all reasonably well done, but without a basic plot holding these tributes together, it’s all just empty trickery. It’s not so much a movie as it is a demo reel. The film teases an intriguing thematic thread about religion and faith, but it pretty much drops it for the third act shenanigans.

Paul Bettany clenches his way through the lead role. Bettany’s career has taken a pretty strange turn. The man is a fine actor, and he has a natural charisma that just jumps out of the screen. But he now appears to be stuck playing stoic, humorless warriors who don’t have a chance to let any personality shine through. Karl Urban is obviously having more fun with his villainous turn. Bettany might be better served in that kind of role. Cam Gigandet and Maggie Q play backup to Bettany’s grimness, but they somehow still end up feeling bland.

Priest can be somewhat enjoyable in the right mindset. The film is thankfully short at just a little over eighty minutes, which means that the nonsense doesn’t really have enough time to set in. The production design is a little interesting, and the action scenes are just decent enough to be distracting. But really, people shouldn’t have to settle for it. There are bigger and better blockbusters out there, ones that are either much crazier or much more willing to let people think. Priest seems to exist for the sake of existing, laying down a shaky foundation for more meaningless films to come.

My Rating:

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