Theatrical Review: PRIEST
There’s a lot to be said about a movie that knows exactly what it is. It lets the viewer know what they’re in for when they sit down and commit 90 or so minutes of their time and, thankfully, PRIEST does just that. I say "thankfully" because throughout the entire runtime of the film you’ll know that it won’t take very long, and it doesn’t take itself very seriously - at least not seriously enough for its audience to get angry at how bad it is. The adaptation of a Korean comic book of the same name by Min-Woo Hyung is fast-paced and never dull, and while it may not be very good as a whole, it does feature a cool on-screen villain that is the lone positive aspect of the movie.
In the future, a war between humans and vampires has broken out and devastated the world. As a result, the Church has created a secret society of priests to fight the creatures. The priests have a supernatural ability to fight vampires and are the only ones who can protect the human race. Once they were seemingly destroyed and the remains of the human race were reunited in a city contained within high walls in the desert, the priests were left on their own.
One day, many years after the war, a family living in a remote area outside the wall-protected city is attacked by a group of vampires and their young daughter Lucy is kidnapped. That family just so happened to be the brother and niece of our Priest (Paul Bettany), and he then seeks to rescue his niece after receiving word of the attack from Hicks, the sheriff of the remote town. Against the wishes of Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer), the leader of the Church, Priest sets out to rescue Lucy alongside Hicks. Orelas then sends a group of four Priests, led by Priestess (Maggie Q), to capture him and bring him back, dead or alive.
The performances here aren’t anything to brag about, as the writing is kind of weak, but the action on screen isn’t all that bad. Paul Bettany turns in about as average a performance as was previously seen from him in the somewhat similar LEGION. Maggie Q is nice to see on screen, because she’s always able to pull off female characters who are great at kicking ass and looking good while doing it. The brightest star in the cast, however, is Karl Urban. Urban really seems to take a shining to being a villain, and this is the second film in the last two years he can be seen as a character who truly enjoys inflicting pain and misery to others. The next time our favorite modern Dr. McCoy will be seen will be in 2012 in the Judge Dredd remake DREDD.
The visual aesthetic of the film will remind filmgoers of JONAH HEX, and it’s got the dark tone of a film similar to UNDERWORLD. That creates an unusual mix of good and bad that simply doesn’t translate to a film that is as fun as the premise of it appears to be on paper. Overall, PRIEST is kind of limp as an action film, and the mix of old Western style combined with futuristic weapons and vehicles just puts forth too much on screen at one time to generate any kind of a straight focus on anything relevant. It’s about as jumbled a movie as that last sentence was, and though Karl Urban is great as the villain in PRIEST, even his performance may only make PRIEST just a worthwhile rental.