May 28, 2011

Movie Review: Priest

Priest is a movie I really did not have a lot of expectations for. For one thing I was being produced under the Screen Gems banner, a studio that has provided such "winners" as The Roommate and the Prom Night redux. Needless to say, seeing that label does little to inspire confidence. Another point of distress is Pal Bettany's 2010 genre outing, Legion. That was a film I was looking forward to that just flopped. Basically, I was hoping this would be better than that. Was it? Yes, yes it was, but it was still seriously flawed.

The film is based on a Korean comic series of the same name, although it is my understanding that the two creations bare little resemblance aside from the setting. I am unfamiliar with the source and cannot really comment, but I should be noted for and looking for a faithful adaptation.

An animated opening sequence sets up the world of Priest. It is an alternate Earth where a race of vampires developed alongside humanity. These races did battle and pretty much decimated the world. In humanity's defense, the Church unleashed battle trained priests to fight back the vampire hordes. This story picks up sometime after he defeat of the vampires where the priests were no longer needed and had been disbanded.

After the stylish open we discover that the vampire menace still exists as a whole mess of vamps stampede over a farm, killing killing the woman and nearly killing the man found there and kidnapping their daughter. The scene shifts to the man conveniently referred to as Priest (Bettany) and his relation the farm family. He turns his back on the Church when he fails to get his authority back and heads out to hunt the vampires and rescue the young girl.

The movie is executed well on a few fronts. The effects are well executed, the look of the film is suitably post apocalyptic, and the primary performances are solid, particularly Paul Bettany. The problem is that the movie runs a paltry 80 minutes. This amounts to a movie that moves at a pretty brisk pace but lacks pretty much any depth. Any moment that would hint at something deeper, a more interesting character or more epic plot for example, appears to have been heartlessly chopped out, left to deteriorate on an editing room floor (or hopefully an extended director cut, as I cannot believe this is what the director intended).

There were so many moments and little bits that left things open for expansion. The relationship between Priest and Priestess (Maggie Q) was a waste. There has to be more to Priest's background than we are told. Then there is the case of Black Hat (Karl Urban), he is entertaining, but still a bit thin.

The funny thing is that through all the problems with the story is that I actually enjoyed the movie. It was like a post apocalyptic take on the spaghetti western. Good guys versus bad guys with plenty of grey area to play with. It is not a movie everyone is going to be able to get behind, but for a certain subset of fans this is going to scratch ha itch for some genre bending fare. It will not stand up to close scrutiny, but sometimes corny fare is what we need.


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