Director: Scott Stewart
Cast: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Christopher Plummer
Plot: After a decades long war between humans and vampires, the Church protects the people in huge walled cities while vampires are sent away to reservations. Priests, warriors ordered by the Church to win the war for them, are reintegrated into a society that no longer needs them. One such priest finds himself having to break his vows and go back to fighting vampires when they kidnap his niece. Joining him are a young sheriff and a former priestess.
Review: If you've seen the film Legion and thought it sucked, I wouldn't blame you if you walked into Priest thinking it would suck too. Director Scott Stewart and Paul Bettany team up again to take on another action horror film. I'm quite glad to report that it is a step up from Legion.
See, the reason Legion wasn't good was the ridiculousness that hit the film in the second half. It had plenty of potential but squandered it altogether before the finish. Priest is by no means perfect, but it is certainly better executed than Legion. It starts with a pretty cool animation sequence explaining the human-vampire history before bringing us to the present time, which is visually authentic. It's a post apocalyptic type future, where cities are run by the church, authoritarian and not very people friendly. They even have electronic confession booths in place of real men of the cloth.
Outside the cities, it's a barren wasteland where only small pockets of humans survive. Vampires, who are presented as hideous creatures with no eyes here, live in caves. Kudos to the set designers who manage to create everything realistically, from the cities to the deserts and the vampires' hives. The cinematography is also well done, evidently during scenes where Priest is out in the desert riding his bike. Like Legion, Stewart excels in the visual department, giving us some nice visual effects to accompany the good camerawork and set designs.
However, despite all this, Priest certainly doesn't come off being very original. The vampires are quite similar in design to the ones in I Am Legend, the walled cities are reminiscent of Judge Dredd, and the priests are a lot like the warrior vampires from Underworld i.e. sleek and deadly. A lot of the dialogue here is very cheesy too, which gives the film a very B-grade feel. It might not necessarily be a bad thing, but some of these lines have been used so often in other films, you'd just wish they came up with something better to say.
Paul Bettany has certainly found a good genre to be in. We all know that he can be a serious dramatic actor, but now it's clear he can do action very well too. As the stoic Priest, he excels at being good at what he does and at the same time, trying to show some feelings he had long abandoned. Cam Gigandet, playing the role of the sidekick, is brash and a bit cocky as the young sheriff, which is expected. He doesn't have much chemistry with Bettany, but manages to hold his own at times (though it's still Bettany's show, in the end). Karl Urban, as the villain Black Hat, a former priest turned vampire, gets the worst lines in the film, and ends up being a bit of a caricature. Maggie Q does what she does best as Priestess, kicking ass as usual. Lily Collins, daughter of singer Phil Collins, gets the damsel in distress role, and is real easy on the eye.
The film gets a few extra points for having some good subplots. Priest has some history with Priestess as well as Black Hat. There is another subplot between him and his brother Owen (played by True Blood actor Stephen Moyer) and Owen's wife Shannon (Madchen Amick) which makes things interesting. There is also the part about the Church's ignorant governance of the cities and their view of the vampire situation, which seems to be not explored fully here and pushed possibly to a sequel, but who knows if that sequel would ever come.
At a lean 87 minutes, Priest is quite entertaining for an action horror flick. It's not particularly memorable or special, but it's a lot of fun while it lasts. (3.5/5)