‘Priest’ is an Unholy Mess of a Movie

Audiences have been fascinated by dystopian stories for generations. Some of the greatest and most enduring literature (1984, Brave New World) and film (Metropolis, Blade Runner) explore the idea that with greater technology and intelligence comes not a better existence, but a life of imprisonment and hopelessness. It is a great legacy of art to examine the potential for human achievement as well as the possibility of total control by those who wield the power.

Priest takes a century of beautiful storytelling and makes a mockery of its sincere attempt to predict (and possibly, prevent) the future. The movie is practically a farce of itself and presents not one single redeeming quality by which it can be judged favorably.

Based on a graphic novel (like so many of the worst films being released today), Priest is set in an alternate existence in which mankind has been battling vampires since time began. Apparently, evolution has played no role in this world as man and vampire seem to have sprung into being fully formed and locked at odds with one another. In this world, mankind almost fell to the vampires who are, as always, stronger and faster.

With the help of the Catholic Church and their superhuman priests, man manages to overtake the hordes of bloodsuckers and lock them away in maximum security reservations. Since they were mankind’s salvation, the Church became the overlords of the new society. The priests who protected the innocent have become one of the faceless among the city’s overcrowded streets.

While the world inside the city walls is akin to the trash-packed existence of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, civilization for those left behind or cast out has become quite similar to what we know as the Wild West. So, even though this is a completely different plane of existence, humans in this world still manage to mirror the lifestyle of 19th century Americans all the way down to cowboy hats, chaps and traveling hucksters peddling magic potions. Interesting.

Outside one of these towns, a family is slaughtered by vampires and a young girl is taken away. Her lover/the town sheriff, Hicks (Cam Gigandet), visits the city to ask for the help of her uncle, one of the former priests who brought down the vampires. His name is Priest (Paul Bettany). Believe it or not, though he is reluctant at first, he agrees to help Hicks.

Priest is an example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood big budget filmmaking. The story is so thin and laughable that not even a diehard fan of the graphic novel could possibly take it seriously. Director Scott Stewart seems to be attempting to remake Judge Dredd but with vampires. If you thought Stallone had a lot of bad one-liners in that movie (remember “I am the law”?), you won’t believe how many are uttered by the cast of this poor excuse of a movie.

The mythology of the movie, which should be the most fun to invent, seems lazy and half-hearted. We get a short little animated prologue to explain what the script apparently could not, and then we are thrown into the action as if we’re supposed to ignore the most pathetic piece of exposition of all time. The backstory of the battle between humans and vampires would be
incredibly interesting to hear about, but apparently the filmmakers think the sorry plot they’ve devised will be more appealing to audiences. It is not.

This film is rated PG-13 and (thankfully) runs only 87 minutes.

Grade: F


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