Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Christopher Plummer, Brad Dourif, Lily Collins, Karl Urban, Madchen Amick
Cory Goodman, Min-Woo Hyung (Graphic Novel Series)
Commentary with Director Scott Stewart, Writer Cory Goodman, Paul Bettany and Maggie Q;
Deleted and Extended Scenes;
The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest;
Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles of Priest;
Also comes in an Unrated version and a 3-D version
One can only hope that Priest, an only modestly successful adaptation of a graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung about a renegade order of priests who go about battling vampires on behalf of an unappreciative humanity, doesn't somehow find itself atop the box-office given the abundance of far better and far more entertaining motion pictures currently in both indie and wide release theaters.
It seems rather unlikely that a film directed by Scott Stewart, who offered up the similarly modest Legion, and starring Paul Bettany, hardly a box-office draw, can hope to lay claim to a box-office winning weekend though one can never quite underestimate the power of a vampire seeking cinematic crowd.
Much like he did with Legion, Stewart serves up a few intriguing scenes surrounded by a disappointingly bland and predictable thriller that never really thrills that much. While I'm only moderately familiar with the material upon which the film is based, I'm familiar enough to recognize that Stewart and screenwriter Cory Goodman aren't exactly faithful to the source material. The description really should read "Inspired by, if inspired by means we kinda sorta really liked the basic concept but nothing else that actually happens." Bettany plays Priest, who formerly defended humankind but now largely serves as a flunky for the corporate big brother that the church has become (Okay, so that does sound realistic, eh?). When the renegade Hicks (Cam Gigandet) shows up requesting Priest's help in tracking down the folks who took Priests's niece (Lily Collins), our vampire-kickin' superhero kicks into gear and angers that old corporate high church. The church sends a group out to get Priest, a group that includes a former "interest" (Maggie Q), of course. Karl Urban shows up as a former compatriot who seems to have floated over to the dark side and is threatening to unleash our vampires on humanity.
The biggest problem with Priest is that the film's somber tone and gothic sensibility feels more like a production design than an actual element of the filmmaking process. While it's easy to accept that these characters live within a dark and rather depressing world, there's simply never enough delving into that world to make us care about their journeys. The film's use of 3-D is, rather surprisingly, average at best as virtually all of the film's advertising has stressed the awesomeness of this world created by Stewart. There are moments when the world is visually arresting, but these moments are too far and few between and certainly don't require 3-D to appreciate.
There's nobody in the cast that's particularly awful and, in fact, Maggie Q practically steals the show. Paul Bettany is an intriguing choice as Priest, but his performance is so devoid of life that it might as well have been Brandon Routh. There could be kudos, I suppose, for the consistency of the performances as seldom has a cast seemed so uniformly glum and sullen for the entire length of a film. I get the sense that this was an intentional artistic choice - too bad, it was the wrong one.
With multiple decent action flicks still in theaters and both Bridesmaids and Everything Must Go hitting theaters this weekend, Priest seems like the kind of film that you may find yourself wanting to see but, rest assured, it's a film that can wait for home video.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic