THE latest film following the Underworld vampire movie trends is Priest.
Set in futuristic “Cathedral City” where the church and the government are the same thing, citizens believe the church will protect them from the vampire menace they fought against so many years before.
This faux western stars Paul Bettany (Wimbledon, The Da Vinci Code) as Priest; part of an elite warrior alliance of priests and priestesses with supernatural gifts in combat, who were the humans’ greatest weapon during the human/vampire war.
Struggling to be accepted back into society now that his duty is over, Priest is approached by Hicks, a small town sheriff played by Cam Gigandet (The O.C., Burlesque) who informs him that his niece, Lucy, has been kidnapped by vampires in the wastelands. Together the duo defies the church and set off to rescue her.
Loosely based on the Korean graphic novel Priest by Hyung Min-Woo, Scott Stewart’s film contains a tragically predictable plot, foreseeable twists and cheesy one-liners in between the extravagant action scenes. Reminiscent of V for Vendetta and I am Legend, Priest seems to borrow bits and pieces from other blockbuster films; with a dinner scene directly from Pirates of the Caribbean and a scene completely identical to one from Lord of the Rings.
The plot of Priest, as well as being predictable, is also devoid of depth. It has many opportunities to delve deeply into character flaws, potential conflicts and relationships, but it barely scratches the surface of what could have been a complex and interesting narrative. With credit to Min-Woo, it is fairly original in terms of the vampire theology – differing from any others shown in major films to date, but this is not enough to distract from the tacky script.
Although disappointing at times, Priest’s redemption is its highly stylised action sequences and special effects. Entirely digitally-shot films with real-life actors normally look absurd, but Priest’s graphic novel ambience enhances the film’s visual quality. In addition to its brilliant (but somewhat over the top) stunts and beautifully amplified soundtrack, Priest is suspenseful enough to make you jump, if only once or twice.
It is quite unfortunate that such an average (at best) film has such a remarkable cast. Lead by Bettany and Gigandet, the film also sees Maggie Q demonstrating her arse-kicking, motorbike-riding, vampire-exterminating abilities and Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings) getting away with some pretty cheeky lines as the typical bad guy, Black Hat.
If Priest is a comedic parody of apocalypse-style vampire films and steam-punk westerns, it is fantastic. But as a stand-alone hybrid of clichés, it is the perfect case of (some) style over substance. Watch it if you have an open mind and an ability to laugh at ridiculous lines and absurd action.
As Black Hat says, “if you’re not committing sin, you’re not having fun.” Priest is a bit of both.