Priest was panned by American critics upon release, now having seen it for myself I can see why, the fact is that this is a film that should never have been released to cinemas and I can’t recommend that you set aside a night and the coin to go and watch it there.
But as a lazy weekend evening at home this would be a perfect DVD choice. So wait a few months then come back and read this review I guess… Why am I so sure this is a B movie? I’ll give you three reasons:
- / Paul Bettany is the lead. His last lead was the similarly B Legion.
- / Maggie Q is his kinda sidekick.
- / Karl Urban is in it (period).
Jeez even the over-hyped shitstorm that was Jonah Hex had distinct upgrades at all three positions! Pit Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and (eye-candy only) Megan Fox against the above trio of fourth or fifth choices and you might get the picture.
But Priest is streets ahead of the mediocre Jonah Hex (which in truth was more disappointing due to the budget that was thrown at it rather than the lack of quality), and deserves a spot in your rental rotation at some point nearer Christmas.
In a future dystopian universe… blah blah blah the usual shit…
Seriously there are so many ‘lone figures’ out there that I am amazed they don’t constantly run into each other and join forces. Priest could join with Eli (The Book of Eli), Mad Max, the guys from Hardware, Death Race, Robocop and Repo Men to form the an Avengers style group of strange loners.
That film would be flogged critically too, and I’d still watch it.
In this reality Vampires are once again the bad guys, and if Stake Land wasn’t still fresh in my memory I might mistakenly state that it is good to see some nasty ones back on the screen. But compared to Stake Land these vamps are pretty tooth… I mean fangless, and basically computer generated replicas of the demons from the under-rated Constantine.
Well anyway in the long-long agos with Vampires a constant menace people turned to the Church for protection. The Church in turn provided society with a group of highly trained peace keepers in the form of heavily armed Priests. The Priests eventually managed to quell the vampire uprising and drove them from the populated areas, after which a tentative truce commenced of the ‘we won’t bother you, you don’t bother us’ variety.
And so the peace was kept. For so long though that the efficient killing machine Priests were no longer required, and they were clumsily reintegrated back into society, where it became difficult to lay low when you have a big cross brandished on your forehead.
This all changes when a farm is set to on the outskirts of what passes for civilisation in this alternate reality. A small family is thrown into disarray, with the parents dead or very nearly, and the teenaged daughter missing. The mortally injured man claims that it was vampires that performed the dastardly deed and demands Church intervention, which leads to the following discussion (paraphrased):
- Wounded man: “Help! Vampires!”
- Church: “No vampires.”
- Wounded man: “ Seriously you guys. Vampires!”
- Church: “No vampires.”
- Priest: “I want to help.”
- Church: “No vampires. No help.”
- Priest: “I’m going.”
- Church: “Doh!”
Off Priest (Paul Bettany) goes on his hotted up motorcycle into the desolate wastelands, passing many either CGI backgrounds or matte paintings – whichever is cheaper for the filmmakers I guess.
When he arrives at the homestead he teams up with a young sheriff who it seems has more on the line than merely upholding the law, and the pair head off into vampire country to hunt for the missing girl.
The Church eventually cracks the shits and sends in other Priests to either bring Priest 1 in or take him down. These three new Priests include Maggie Q.
You will find no bleak desperation and subtle symbolism here (remember I have already mentioned the big Mike Tyson face-tatts?), as this film is after as many cool points as it can muster out. The final hour is chock full of pretty people, supposedly pimped out weapons and vehicles, flips and acrobatics and uber-serious orchestral music. In fact I pretty much could have predicted how it would all pan out if it finished after 15 minutes.
But despite all this I liked Priest in the same way I occasionally like KFC. You know it has no value and is definitely bad for you, but every now and then it provides a quick harmless rush, as long as you don’t get sucked in to regular consumption.
Priest is cheesy mindless and mostly fun, it clumsily forebodes the big ‘twist’ extremely early in proceedings and in retrospect scarcely uses the vampires anyway, leading to the question ‘Why have ‘em if you don’t use ‘em”. A question that could be posed to women everywhere…
The answer to this question provides an insight into the thought process behind this entire film: “Because males aged 15 – 39 think they’re cool…”
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. It’s crappy, but good crappy. As good as deliberate B can get. In fact their biggest mistake might have been releasing this to cinemas in the first place. (I know the strongly hinted at sequel will be direct to DVD…)