In the space of a few months, Priest went from one of my most anticipated movies of the year to just another film at the cinema. Happens when the film’s release is delayed by three and a half months in Australia and the reviews are ‘unkind’ at best.
Nonetheless, I tried to keep an open mind about this film loosely based on a Korean comic of the same name, about an alternate world where priests are kick-ass vampire killers in an eternal human-vampire holy war. The initial teaser trailers I saw over a year ago looked extremely promising — pure horror action, a stylish visual feast and one of my favourite actors, Paul Bettany.
But unfortunately, the critics that saw the film before me were right. Priest just didn’t have it. Nice to look at, sure, but it’s the perfect example of a failed comic book adaptation. A great premise bogged down by a contrived plot, boring characters, poor dialogue and an unnecessary seriousness. At just 87 minutes, Priest felt overlong, but at the same time strangely incomplete. The result is an aesthetically pleasing, slick, occasionally frightening/exciting film that is ultimately forgettable and never comes close to living up to its potential.
Bettany did the best he could here, and is clearly the bright spot in an otherwise weak line up. Karl Urban, Maggie Q and Cam Gigandet were all merely serviceable co-stars and uninteresting characters.
If there is something the film did do right, it’s the freakish vampires, who looked more like the mutated beasts from Resident Evil than Edward Cullen. Not surprising, considering director Scott Stewart started his career in visual effects and previously directed Bettany in another supernatural action/horror, Legion, which involved angels and demons and has a similar feel. The creatures in that film were pretty scary too. Sadly, neither film was particularly good. On the whole, Priest is probably better than Legion, but I personally thought the best parts of Legion were far better than the best parts of Priest.
I’d say Priest deserves some consideration as a DVD rental, especially when put up against straight-to-DVD films on the shelves, but in all honesty it could have and should have been so much more.
2 stars out of 5
PS: Shockingly, Priest has been released exclusively on 3D over here (at least from what I can gather). Needless to say, as a post-production conversion, it was no more than another pointless money grabbing exercise.