Despite what many people think of priests, apparently than can fight and save the world. That is the general idea behind the film Priest that hit theatres yesterday. Priest is based off of a Korean comic book of the same name. The author of the comic is Min-Woo Hyung. Priest is directed by Scott Stewart, whose only other directorial credit is Legion. Can the idea of Priests being trained killing machines make for an entertaining movie?
Priest begins by explaining that a long war has been fought between man and vampires. In order to defeat the vampires the Church formed a secret fleet of trained fighters that were known as Priests. Following the victory of man over vampire the Priests were left on their own for their skills were no longer needed.
The character played by Paul Bettany is simply referred to as “Priest.” He finds out from a Sheriff named Hicks (Cam Gigandet) that his niece Lucy (Lily Collins) has been kidnapped by vampires, which are believed by mankind to be dead. Bettany approaches the clergy asking that he be allowed to use his training in order to find his niece. The head of the clergy, Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) tells Bettany that if he may not use his training and if he does than he will be hunted. Bettany chooses to take the risk and accompany Hicks in order to find and rescues his niece.
Priest manages to capture the look of the post apocalyptic world in a captivating way. Although it does borrow heavily from Blade Runner, the audience is still able to see the total effects that the war had on society.
The feeling of desperation and consequence of going against the established order works well. Bettany deserves credit for this because he manages to make the audience believe that going against the order will result in dire aftereffects.
Priest does provide a twist for the villain. The villain is named “Black Hat” (Karl Urban) he is a fallen Priest much like Bettany. However, when Priest reveals to the audience what happened to him and why he is now a villain, it is a clever and well executed plot twist.
Priest would have worked better if it had been a silent film. Despite some action scenes being eye candy the dialogue is laughable. When the characters talk about the predicaments that they find themselves in the lines are off beat and they come across as comical. Furthermore, despite some capable action scenes the 3D is not needed. I have defended the use of 3D on multiple occasions but when it comes to Priest I cannot. It really is sad because the filmmakers are forcing the public to pay the extra three dollars and it is unnecessary. The 3D is not even used well; when it is used it actually takes away from scenes because it does not enhance what is taking place.
The tone of Priest is also confusing. Priest wants to be every genre of film in existence. This does not work because when it stretches to touch another genre it becomes too bogged down. The premise of having a film that does not fall into one specific genre can work (Splice). However, the writing and the directing have to be good enough so that the audience is able to get into the story. This is not the case with Priest, the plot is too simple, the plot is just a quest story and it does not provide enough opportunities to switch genres convincingly.
The story itself is a major weakness for it does not support the ideas that are portrayed on screen. For example, in one scene the audience witnesses a conversation between Bettany and a fellow Priest or in this case “Priestess” (Maggie Q). What they discuss is how they had problems integrating back into society following the end of the war. This idea is intriguing, why not explore this? It would provide much more of a human element to the story. The human element is something that Priest needed badly because it is hopeless to connect to any of these characters.
Priest is easily one of the worst films I have seen this year, coupled with the most forgettable. Some of the ideas could have made for an interesting movie, however, weak writing and direction sinks Priest.