Notable Cast: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Christopher Plummer
Review: Paul Bettany, when will you learn that if you see Scott Stewart’s name you should run! Here you are, two films in with the man and nothing to show for it. Last year Legion bored me to tears instead of delivering a thrilling tale of angel on angel brutality. This year Stewart tries to bring the post apocalyptic vampire world to life, with again Bettany playing his lead hero, this time as a warrior priest. I’m not sure what Stewart’s fascination with religious violence is, but maybe he should leave this genre to someone else. Priest at least ditches the terrible dialogue and actually does contain some entertaining action, but something about Stewart’s vision just still doesn’t sit right with me. I can’t tell if it’s pacing, tone, or direction; but whatever it is, it prevented me from enjoying Priest to the full potential.
In a world where vampires and humans have been clashing for years, the only protection that exists is that of the church and their elite group of warrior priests. But in today’s world where the vampire menace is thought to be quelled, the church orders all priests to stand down and be integrated back into civilization. A civilization consisting of cities behind giant walls and a false admiration of their holy protectors that is. But when a young girl is kidnapped and her family left for dead, it becomes obvious that vampires are still roaming the land and threaten that very civilization that believes they are gone. Our hero Priest (Bettany) finds out that his brother’s family was the victim of the attack, and asks the church to re-instate his powers. Of course the church wants people to believe their false hope, and says if the Priest pursues the girl he will be viewed as a defector and enemy of God. Aided by a local sheriff (Gigandet), the Priest sets out to save what is left of his family, with or without God’s blessing.
You’ve got something on your…right..no a little higher…
Here’s the thing though. Although I’ve never read the “Priest” graphic novels, I did a little research to see how the movie mirrored the graphic novel because I always like to see how true adaptations stay to their original. I read an entire summary of the “Priest” series, but didn’t think I had the right title because there wasn’t a single similarity. I kept on searching, but realized I in fact read the correct synopsis and the movie Priest borrowed nothing from the acclaimed Korean comic series except the idea of kung fu priests and the tattoo on their faces. This was a bummer because after reading the synopsis of the original story, the written transcription was much more intriguing than the straight vampire story Stewart and company gave us. There was a whole story of the Priest going across the land spreading bloodshed and hunting 12 angels (or something similar), plus a whole other story of God turning his back on the human race. Hands down this would have been entirely more entertaining than what was delivered. I can’t stand when films just try to cash in on a familiar name, not keeping to any of the original material, when it could be so much better. Lets call this “The Walking Dead” effect for one reason: I’m an avid fan of the comics and was looking so much to the sliver screen adaptation (and you know what, I still loved it for what it was). But, after the season was over, all I could do was sit in amazement as I realized the show chose to go with its own story and use the characters that were already in, even though the story in the comics was easily more well written. After careful research I’m hearing a lot of the same things from “Priest” comic fans, and share in their frustration because I understand exactly what they are saying. Why change something so good for something so mediocre? It’s not bad, but the frustration stems out of the fact that if you have something better already drawn out, what’s the sense in changing it?
As far as performances go, I think Paul Bettany is a majorly talented actor, especially with his Shakespearian theater training. But his portrayal of the action hero is very stoic and solemn, but not in a good way. He always has the same blank face on his character, and you never get any emotion from him. He takes the badassery too serious, and instead is just an action type robot, programmed only to kill things and say pre-written lines. His characters don’t have any fun in them or personality, which you don’t know how much you miss until you watch a character like Priest or Michael from Legion. Karl Urban had fun with his character, and I know he’s supposed to be the devious villain who’s supposed to be different, but he was at least entertaining to watch. There was substance to his character, and a level we could understand. Remember the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” That’s the same phrase Bettany brings to his characters, focusing too much on his characters getting the job done and having no fun with it. Think of action heroes like Chev Chelios from Crank or Clive Owen from Shoot Em’ Up. Were they boring characters? No, they were colorful heroes that only made their respective movies even more entertaining.
Priest itself should not be compared to the graphic novel because there is no comparison to be made. It tries to be its own movie, bring darkness back to the vampire genre. But in this case, Priest is a movie that suffers due to its far to serious nature. There’s not a lot of characteristic action fun to be had, minus a few bloody fight sequences. The cast and story leave something to be desired…well no the whole film leaves something to be desired. Even the religious “Big Brother” overtones aren’t effective, and this turns out to just be another strike on the Stewart/Bettany record.
Final Rating: 5.5 awesome black hats out of 10