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Review – Priest

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PriestGoing into a movie like Priest, I expect a couple of things, bad acting, sub-par special fx, lots of action and bad dialogue.  Priest gave me all of that in an enjoyable, but short movie.  The story is pretty simple, it’s vampires versus humans in a dystopian future run by a church that uses priests to do battle.  It’s been years since the major wars with the vampires and the priests are retired and vampires set up in reservations.  It’s cowboys versus indians but replace indians with vampires.  A priest played by Paul Bettany must get back into ass kicking mode to save his brother’s family.

The story is thin, focusing on events more than character build up (which is almost non-existent).  This is a “B” movie in all it’s glory with some great visuals.  And that’s what’s so frustrating about the movie.  There’s amazing build up and some great building blocks that aren’t used.  The scenes in these massive walled cities is amazing and sets a mood and world that’s fantastic.  The “western” parts of the movie work well as well.  You have an overreaching church that controls the populace, something that’s not fleshed out.  There’s great stuff here, but none of it’s used to it’s potential.

Paul Bettany plays the main priest and does his best Christian Bale/Batman impersonation, very little emotion, lots of grumbling.  It’s ok for the character but something is missing that makes us care about him.  Karl Urban has the most fun of the bunch playing the villain.  Maggie Q is as pretty as ever (and as usual kicks ass) as another priest and Christopher Plummer hams it up as a head of the church.  None of the acting is particularly good, but are you expecting that?

You go see this movie for the action.  All of it’s ok, but none of it’s amazing and all of it I’ve seen before.  These priests are supposed to be amazing warriors that can take on hundreds, but at no time is this really shown off.  Instead they generally fight one on one as if their enemies are taking turns to attack them.  I was hoping for some of the great action fights of Blade, but instead I get a poorer version of it.  That’s not to say there’s not some cool stuff here, there’s just not enough of it.

And that’s the problem of the movie, there’s not enough.  The film is just under an hour and thirty minutes.  You could have added another thirty minutes and fleshed out characters, added more action or explored the world more.  Instead, we’ve got great concepts, great visuals, potentially great characters, in a movie that just barely skims the surface of the potential.

Direction:  Directed by Scott Charles Stewart the movie is all about the visual and effects.  It’s not surprising considering his background.  Visually, the movie is solid.  There’s just candy there for the eye, whether it’s the giant cities or the destroyed landscape that lays outside, all of it’s amazing to look at.  There’s also the small visual touches, the ash falling in the city, a bead of sweat rolling down someone’s cheek, or even the sweat stains from the action.  This movie is about the small touches.

Acting:  Yeah, there’s not much here as far as that goes, but were you expecting much?  The acting is cheesy, people grumble and growl a lot, and I don’t expect much more from it.

Plot:  The plot is ok if not thin.  It’s a pseudo revenge movie that sets a lot up and doesn’t explain it (where’d the train come from?).  There’s also some twists and turns you can see coming, but are still enjoyable in their cheese-tastic glory.  But really, are the vampires cool?  They’re different and makes them stand out.  Is there action?  Yes, but not enough.  Can I turn off my brain during it?  Yes, and you’ll want to.

3D:  The 3D adds to the visual.  There’s not items popping out at you, but like Thor, this 3D adds a layer to the world.  The ash stands out, the angles are a bit cooler, but it doesn’t blow me away.  Where the 3D is amazing though, is the opening animated prologue.  The 3D does add layers to the animation that makes it look like the figures were cut out and then given more depth.  I would have loved a full length movie of just this animation.

Overall:  It’s what I expected, but much shorter than I expected.  I can’t compare it to the source material of the graphic novel by Min-Woo Hyung, but not sure I want to.  The movie does what it can trying to be a western in a future world, but never really embracing anything it wants to be.  It’s a fun film for the fanboy, but nothing groundbreaking or particularly impressive.

Grade: B-

The movie was viewed with a FREE sneak peek pass available to any individual who grabbed one (thanks Big Planet for the pass!)

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