I imagine this is the conclusion of the Paul Bettany Catholicism trilogy that started with his self-mutilation role in ‘The Da Vinci Code’, followed up by his role as the angel Michael in the movie ‘Legion’ and concluding with his part in this movie ‘Priest’ as a vampire battling Man of God, attempting to do this thing under the oppressive auspices of a church operation that seems oddly similar to that big house in the middle of Rome Italy. I gotta tell you, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, which makes ‘Priest’ better than ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Legion’ combined. Not that this would be a difficult task to accomplish.
For as long as we’ve known it to be, man has battled vampires. We’ve been aware of this self evident truth for about three minutes. And the fact that of the matter is that Vampires were completely kicking that ass until the emergence of the church trained Priests who set things right. But like most warriors with no war, the Priests are now obsolete and spend their time being depressed, having nightmares and itching for a battle that will never come. Now if you are at all curious about where these priests came from and how they came to be so awesome and acquired these amazing skills, you might want to pick up the graphic novel this movie is based on because this info will not be coming to you via this film.
Anyway, we witness a family of farmers overrun by a horde of vampires. This isn’t supposed to be happening because the vampire menace, according to Mon Signor over there (Christopher Plummer), has been eradicated. The thing about this particular family is that it is headed by the brother of our main Priest (Bettany) and he has been informed by the young sheriff of that town (Cam Gigandet) that his eighteen year old niece Lucy (Lily Collins) has been taken captive.
No problem. Just get permission from the church, go into the badlands and save the girl. But Monsignor is nothing if not an asshole and he says no. Whatever man. The Priest violates his vows, jumps on his pimped out motorcycle and with the boy sheriff
by his side, they journey to save the girl. This prompts Monsignor to reactivate his own group of priest, including the Priestess (Maggi Q), to jump on their pimped out motorbikes and bring him back. Dead or Alive.
Here’s the thing. Not only is the vampire menace alive and thriving, their leader is a former priest going by the non-de plume of ‘Black Hat’ (Karl Urban), a man we saw ripped away from his order by vampires in the films first scene. We don’t know what happened to him when they got him, but he’s not what he used to be. While the priests are pretty damned awesome with their abilities to defy gravity and kung fu skills and super strength and stuff, this guy is still like that, only to the power of ten. And he has a plan. And if you’re not a vampire this plan probably doesn’t include you. Can the sour Priest, the supermodel Priestess and the boy Sheriff in love with the captive girl stop this guy? They probably shouldn’t be able to because of his mad skills, but his plan to overtake the planet has a serious fatal flaw. Seriously. He didn’t think that out too well.
You would think we’d be getting a little sick and tired of movie vampires about now, and we are, but director Scott Charles Stewart’s movie does do a few things a little differently. For starters these creatures aren’t really vampires, or at least they aren’t the kind of vampires that we are used to. These are vicious monsters with a bad allergic reaction to the sun and who seem to devour their prey as opposed to simply draining them. We are partial to movie monsters, so this works for us. The mix of genre settings is also interesting with the Classic Western movie influence combined with the cyberpunk urban settings for the big cities which made for some innovative unique visual elements. This is an action movie, almost to a fault, and the action is brisk and non-stop. Some of it is painfully obvious CGI but there is certainly no shortage of chaos and mayhem to be had during this movies brief running time.
But even though I enjoyed ‘Priest’ for the mindless mayhem it provided, you just can’t help but think it still could’ve been much better. It wouldn’t have hurt to provide just a little more background on what these priests are and why they can do what they do. There was a scene were Maggie Q hands Paul Bettany this blinged out crucifix and obviously it had some meaning to the characters, but it didn’t mean jack to us because no one felt the need to develop or explain anything. It was just a fancy movie prop. These characters looked like they had something to offer us, particularly Karl Urban’s Black Hat, but somebody somewhere decided that our attention spans are far too short for anything like that so let’s just enjoy some explosions and a big old fist fight on top of a speeding train. That should hold our attention. And while we’re not gore hounds here at the FCU, if you’re making a movie about blind, vicious, feral, ferocious vampire monsters that rips their prey to shreds, and we’re talking about the slaughter of entire towns here, you might want to go ahead and roll with that R-rating. PG-13 wasn’t doing this particular movie any favors.
Admittedly, I had low expectations for ‘Priest’ so it didn’t have to do too much to exceed them, and the good news is that it did exceed them but I’m telling you… it still could’ve been better. Most of us do have the ability to focus for more than ten minutes at a time so don’t be afraid to tell us a fully fleshed out story in between observing pimped out motorbikes that go real fast and watching things that get blowed up real good. We can handle it.