Film Review: Priest (2011)

I sat through the entirety of last year's Legion and absolutely hated that film. So much so that I included it in my Worst Horror Films of 2010 list. It's not that the film was bad....well, actually, it was pretty bad. But, the stuff that they promised in the trailer to Legion...the old lady crawling on the ceiling. The ice cream man from hell. A battle between angels and epic that it would end all battles. Everything a lover of horror film could ever hope for. Yet, when I sat down to finally watch the film...I was unexpectedly sacked in the nuts.

I tell you all of this because it is only under this lack of enthusiasm that I can say that I actually liked Priest.

Now, I'm not saying that you can only enjoy Priest after you've seen Legion...but, it does help. Especially given the fact that the lead actor and director are back for this film. So, it goes without mentioning that my expectations were subterranean. I may have to grade Priest on a curve. Then again...while I thought it was a blasty blast while watching it, it certainly didn't exhibit alot of depth. You know what? Let's begin the review there. The depth...or lack of, there of...

Priest follows the comics whence it was born from. However, much like any comic book adaptation, it doesn't follow it closely. It tends to stray enough to really make it its own entity. Think Jonah Hex...if it had been any good. It basically takes the old and tired "retired hero pulled back into action in which to save the world" premise and has some fun with it. Unfortunately, it stumbles a few too many times keeping it from becoming something greater. The film doesn't tackle any real social issues like the film Daybreakers did...nor does it ever stray from...."girl gets kidnapped....reluctant hero comes out of retirement and teams with cocky dude to save her...turns out girl was kidnapped by super powerful bad guy for purposes of ruling the world...hero saves the day...roll credits". Now, I'm aware that this simple premise is evident in most films that see the light of a projector these days...but, usually, it's done with a series of complicated layers. Stake Land, also an apocalyptic vampire buddy film, had some of the very same elements that Priest had....but, that film had some layers of human depth and took you to various places before giving you pretty much the same payoff that Priest gives you...which may or may not be an eventual sequel. I guess that'll depend on demand. If given the choice, however, I'd rather revisit the world of Stake Land before going back to Priest's world.

Paul Bettany is fucking awesome. But, then...he's Paul Bettany. He was pretty much the best thing in Legion. Here he plays the Priest who turns his back on the church in order to go off and track his niece who's been kidnapped by a bunch of monstrous vampires. He really knows how to play the character that the fate of the world depends on to perfection.  Little known fact: Bettany also voices the computer that Tony Stark (Rober Downey Jr.) talks to in the Iron Man films. He's pretty bad ass and I'm sure he'll continue to kick ass in whatever else he chooses to do.

Maggie Q is pretty awesome, as well. Not quite as awesome as Bettany...but, still bad ass in her own right. If there is a sequel to this I hope they bring her back for more ass kicking.

I'm not sure if you remember when I said that I usually like Karl Urban. But, this is the Karl Urban I enjoy. Dark. Brooding. The kind of guy that you don't even think about fuckin' with. Well, here he plays "Black Hat"...the film's main plot revelation, which I won't spoil for you. Let's just say that he gives Bettany a run for his money in terms of bad assedness.

Lily Collins is my new crush of the she plays Lucy. The girl that gets herself kidnapped. Which brings me to my next complaint...

Cam Gigandet. He's pretty much the worst part of anything I've ever seen him in and continues that trend here in Priest. He plays Hicks, Lucy's love interest and the sheriff of the wastelands. The guy can't act. If you've seen any of the films he's in and are not a practicing member of his fan club, then you'll surely know what I'm talking about. They should've hired someone like Ben Foster. That kid can act circles around Cam Giganannndewhateverthefuckhisnameis.

The look of the film is pretty damn stunning. While director Scott Charles Stewart (heh...3 first names) does a passable job of keeping the action going, this is really Don Burgess' show. He's the guy tasked with lensing Priest and, man, what a job he does with the cinematography. The film takes place in a darker future set in a desolate, sandy environment. A sort of Spaghetti Western-meets-Dark City type of place. Burgess has been in the game for quite awhile...and his experience really makes the film look pretty.

In the end, Priest is a fun film...not to be taken seriously in the least. While it gives you its best impressions of much better action films and never attempts to be anything more than what it is ultimately a popcorn flick full of improbabilities and script issues best served through eyes of low expectations. My expectations happened to be almost non-existant. If you've already seen Legion...then, I recommend this film whole-heartedly to you. If not...then, check it out when you have absolutely nothing else to do...and feel like watching Paul Bettany kick some CGI vampire ass.

2.5 out of 5

Note: Ok...I stand corrected. This is what I said last Christmas:

"Paul Bettany is starring in a film called Priest, written and directed by the same film makers that brought us's about a man chosen to save humanity from the threat of evil. I guess nobody learned anything. I'm going to go ahead and pre-select Priest for next year's list."

Priest is not a bad film...and won't make it onto my Worst Horror Films of 2011 list. While I'm not saying that the film is a remarkable improvement over Legion, it is definitely much more enjoyable. Also, notice I didn't say one word about the 3D? That's because I hate 3D. Anyway...I gotta go...I have to get back to my Brazillian Butts DVD. What? I have a speedo that I'm trying to fit into for the summer...don't judge me!

Thanks for reading,