Priest (starring Paul Bettany)
Long ago, an order of vampire killers known as Priests, were mankind’s savior from an unrelenting vampire threat. Now, with the vampires all dead or locked away the Church swept these warriors under the rug until a new vampire threat emerged, one the Church doesn’t believe exists, so it’s up to one priest to go against the Church, hunt down the threat and rescue his niece.
I love vampire movies, I always have but I can’t say I had high expectations for PRIEST. Director Scott Charles Stewart directed another Paul Bettany led dark action piece a couple years back called LEGION which I went into with similar expectations and exited with the same conclusion. Both films come at you with a raving concept but both end up being one or two trick ponies. These ponies are dressed up nice of course and those two tricks are indeed impressive but beyond that we’re left with an unsatisfied longing for more (and I don’t mean sequels).
I liked the idea behind PRIEST but right off the bat I could see far too many similarities. For one, this looks like JUDGE DREDD with vampires; which is ironic in itself as Karl Urban is going to be Dredd himself in the remake that’s coming. Judges, Priests, Clerics, Death Dealers, we’ve seen these run of the mill death squad anti-heroes before so if you’re going to go that route bring something new to the table. Remember how fresh UNDERWORLD felt when it came out? Now THAT is how you breathe new life into this genre, anything else is just digging up past efforts and falling short.
On the bright side, I enjoy Paul Bettany and have since A KNIGHT’S TALE. I liked LEGION just as I liked PRIEST but I wanted to like them far more. There were a couple interesting ideas here (note that I’m not giving away anything that wasn’t in the trailers); the vampire queen for one. Problem there is that we only catch a glimpse of her once with no real explanation of what she is, where she came from or anything at all for that matter. Then there’s the man/vampire concept. Karl Urban’s character is turned but again, we see this in the trailer so it’s no secret. The sad part about his “transformation” is that he becomes, well…Blade, a vampire with all their strengths and none of their weaknesses, most importantly the sun. I’m not opposed to this, but again, at least add something new to the equation so I’m not rolling my eyes thinking he’s simply a Blade rip-off.
PRIEST promised me a lot of action in the trailer which led to another of the film’s downfalls being that all the film’s action WAS in the trailer. There were some cool weapon tricks (most of which were already used in UNDERWORLD) and that two stone jumping move was one for the books but at the end of the day I was left feeling like this was a snore fest. The tone was sharp and cold as iron but it was a long while between fight scenes which led up to an all too brief, anti-climactic final battle between Paul Bettany and Blade, I mean, Karl Urban. The clergy are all mad in the end and still don’t believe vampires are back despite seeing a severed head, leading to a deliberate mention of how the queen wasn’t among the dead, followed by “the war has just begun.” Well isn’t that nice, they plan on dragging this out further. I hate ripping on an action based vampire flick, especially in this TWILIGHT day and age but they could have done better with this film and for that I’m disappointed. Sometimes I think the studios actually want these films to fail and that makes me want to drive a stake through someone’s heart.