out of Five
Running time: 88
Priest is stylishly conceived and has the odd decent action sequence but it's also derivative, curiously flat and neither as scary nor as much fun as it should have been.
What's it all about?
Based on the graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung, Priest re-teams Legion director Scott Stewart and star Paul Bettany for another tale of marauding creatures, only this time they're vampires instead of zombies and Bettany is a tattooed vampire-hunting warrior priest instead of a heavily armed angel (though he sports the same haircut). After centuries of brutal warfare with the vampire hordes, mankind has retreated into walled cities ruled by the Church (led by Monsignor Christopher Plummer), with the priests relegated to manual labour for some reason.
However, when Priest's niece Lucy (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by a race of vicious vampires led by his old colleague (Karl Urban), Lucy's boyfriend Hicks (Cam Gigandet, without whom no trashy movie is complete these days) asks Priest to help find her. So he defies the law of the Church and sets off in hot pursuit, vowing to kill Lucy if it turns out she's been turned. Meanwhile, the Church sends a team of priests - including Warrior Priestess Maggie Q – after Priest with orders to bring him back dead or alive.
Much like Jonah Hex, Priest opens with an entertaining animated short (by Genndy Tartakovsky) that establishes the role of the priests and sets the scene of the centuries-long vampire vs. human conflict; in fact, the animated sequence is so good that it's a shame the rest of the film isn't presented in the same style.
Bettany, Gigandet and Maggie Q do their best, but the script fails to imbue any of them with much in the way of personality and their performances feel oddly flat as a result. Similarly, the plot is painfully derivative, directly ripping off classic western The Searchers but failing to include the main element that gave that film its emotional weight.
There are some nice ideas in the stylish production design (such as the priests' cool jet-bikes), but the film ends up using them as filler, with endless shots of the bikes speeding across the desert and nothing as exciting as a chase sequence to liven things up. That said, the action scenes are occasionally decent, but the film's never as scary or as much fun as it ought to be.
Despite the occasional flourish, Priest is ultimately disappointing, thanks to dull characters, a largely humourless script and curiously flat direction that fails to inject any sense of excitement, tension or fun.