Seems like we’ve been hearing about PRIEST for a really long time. Wish I could say that it is worth the wait, but unfortunately, it is bad in pretty much every way that a movie can be bad: Bad acting, bad dialogue, bad visuals -- but worst of all, it is an egregious waste of what could have been a good story.
Paul Bettany is Priest, a retired warrior from the last Vampire War, who is forced to defy the ruling Church and return to action in order to rescue his niece from the clutches of a new vampire army. It’s an intriguing concept: A stylized, post-apocalyptic vampire-western fusion with a religious twist. The opening animated prologue, which explains the centuries-long history of human-vampire conflict and the rise of the Priest warrior as our only hope for survival, is by far the most interesting part of the film. The great war, the Church’s rise to power, the rise & fall of the Priests, the animosity between Paul Bettany’s Priest and Christopher Plummer’s Monsignor, etc. -- that’s the movie I want to see. As it stands, the story we are given betrays its own originality and devolves into much of the same cliché-riddled ridiculousness we’ve seen time and time again.
Bettany can be a fine actor, but he is now 0-for-2 in the “religious figure wages war to save humanity” sub-genre (see also: LEGION, also directed by Scott Charles Stewart). Maggie Q is sexy in a Trinity-from-THE MATRIX kind of way as a fellow warrior, but not worth the price of admission. Cam Gigandet is laughably bad as Priest’s hotshot gunslinger companion, and while Karl Urban does his darnedest to chew the scenery as the big vampire boss man, his performance is sabotaged by the awful, clunky, at times redundant dialogue that permeates the entire film. Effects are mostly cheesy and uninspired; there are a smattering of cool-looking backdrops and action moments, but nothing that will take your breath away (and the 3D adds very little to the visual experience -- yet another case of pointless post-conversion).
I’ve never read Hyung Min-Woo’s graphic novel series, so I cannot comment on how PRIEST fares as an adaptation. But as a movie, it is a prime example of a missed opportunity and a big summer dud. May God have mercy on the filmmakers’ souls.